Aerobic Exercise or Strength Training: What’s More Important for Health?

If you’ve been reading my newsletters for any length of time, you can probably guess my answer: both are important.

You need both strength and endurance.

Now, if the question was “what single type of training has the greatest health benefits?” The answer is without question strength training (call it whatever you like – resistance training, weight training, etc.).



There are several reasons.

First and foremost, if strength training is done properly, it has the obvious benefit of adding strength, but it also has the side benefit of enhancing cardiovascular endurance as well.

Case in point: try doing 10 squats, followed by 10 pushups, followed by 10 pullups, followed by 10 overhead presses back to back without resting. Now repeat that 3 times. See how hard it gets your heart pumping.

The reverse, however does not work. Aerobic exercise will not give you strength benefits, and will actually decrease your strength (if you do it exclusively).

Furthermore, the elderly are rarely limited by their cardiovascular endurance. They are more often than not limited by their lack of strength.

Another benefit of strength training is added flexibility. Provided that you train through a full range of motion, strength training will surprisingly develop flexibility better than stretching by itself (the best effects ultimately happen when strength and flexibility are combined). In a past newsletter, I showed you pictures of weightlifters and bodybuilders in positions requiring tremendous flexibility.

Here are the pictures again:

Former Mr. Olympia, Ronnie Coleman:


An Olympic-style weightlifter:


Is that all to say that aerobic exercise is not important? No, far from it. In the right quantities, it has great benefits. Light to moderate aerobic exercise for 20-30 minutes can really speed up recovery in between weight training workouts.

It is also good for general circulation and oxygenation of the body.

Ultimately, it is best to combine the different forms of exercise. Just as too much aerobic exercise can have negative effects (like decreasing testosterone, weakening the heart and others), so too can too much resistance training (like causing wear and tear in the joints). Balance is the key.

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