While there's a difference between endurance and strength training, you should include both of them in your workout program. Each has different effects on your body, and it's hard to replace one with the other.
Basic Exercise Recommendations
Physical activity is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, but there are differences between endurance and strength training, the two main categories of exercise.
Jogging, swimming and cycling are examples of endurance training, which you could also call "aerobic." Strength training usually involves lifting weights or doing bodyweight exercises like pull-ups and push-ups. There are other categories, such as circuit training and high-intensity interval training, which combine both strength and endurance.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommends 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous exercise. For weight training, it suggests at least two workouts per week, targeting each major muscle group.
If this seems like a lot at first, don't worry. The HSS explains that some exercise is better than none, so even if you're only able to go out for a walk, you're still making progress.
Aerobic Exercise Benefits
Aerobic exercise is known for its health benefits. For example, it may lower your risk of developing heart disease, according to Harvard Medical School. When you do endurance training, such as running or cycling, your heart rate goes up and stays elevated.
Not only does your heart work harder, but your entire circulatory system kicks in. Your lungs work quickly as you breathe in oxygen-rich air and blow out carbon dioxide. Your circulatory system also works hard to make sure enough blood is carried to and from the muscles.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, endurance exercises may help you lose weight, lower your blood pressure and improve glycemic control. They can also make it easier to get in shape so that you don't feel tired walking up the stairs or carrying groceries.
One difference between resistance and endurance training is that lifting weights helps build muscle. However, endurance workouts may help preserve lean mass and prevent muscle loss. A small study published in Translational Sports Medicine in January 2019 suggests that you can combat the age-related decline in muscle mass with aerobic training.
It's important to note that this study was done on older adults, not healthy younger populations. Endurance training might not be challenging enough to build muscle if you're already engaged in a more advanced training regimen.
The Benefits of Resistance Training
Resistance training is also important for your health. You can grow more muscle by lifting weights than you can from doing endurance training. The benefits don't end there, according to the American Cancer Society. Weight training also helps you build stronger bones, which may lower your risk of fractures.
In addition to stronger bones, you can improve your flexibility and joint health with strength training. You may also lose weight and improve your balance.
Older adults should do strength training regularly to reap these health benefits. Those at risk of falling who participate in training are less likely to have an accident, according to a September 2016 study published in the American College of Sports Medicine's Health and Fitness Journal. It also helps keep older adults mobile and independent.
There are mental benefits to strength training as well, according to the AARP. You can fight off dementia, a disease that affects the aging brain. Strength training can also boost your mood by increasing blood flow to the brain and stimulating the release of "feel-good" hormones.
Read more: The Disadvantages of Aerobic Exercise
Endurance vs. Strength Exercises
If you're having trouble choosing between endurance and strength training, the good news is that you don't need to decide. Doing one type of training won't ruin the benefits you'd get from the other.
Concurrent training combines endurance and resistance exercises. You can design your workouts to include elements of both, or do them on separate days.
A small study published in the January 2019 edition of PLOS One has found that concurrent training for eight weeks was more effective at reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease than either aerobic or resistance training alone. According to a May 2017 study featured in the New England Journal of Medicine, concurrent training offers the best of both worlds for obese individuals.
This training method has the cardiovascular benefits of endurance training combined with the strength-enhancing benefits of resistance training. As an added advantage, it may facilitate weight loss, reports the above study.
- New England Journal of Medicine: "Aerobic or Resistance Exercise, or Both, in Dieting Obese Older Adults"
- PLOS One: "Comparative Effectiveness of Aerobic, Resistance, and Combined Training on Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors: A Randomized Controlled Trial"
- AARP: "Strength Training’s Surprising Health Benefits"
- ACSM'S Health and Fitness Journal: "Targeted Resistance Training to Improve Independence and Reduce Fall Risk in Older Clients"
- American Cancer Society: "5 Benefits of Strength Training"
- Translational Sports Medicine: "Moderate‐Intensity Aerobic Exercise Improves Skeletal Muscle Quality in Older Adults"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Aerobic Exercise"
- Harvard Medical School: "The 4 Most Important Types of Exercise"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans"