Strength training or aerobic training?

Which is better for my health — strength training or aerobic training?

The simple answer is: both.

Physical fitness is the ability of your body to carry out daily tasks with minimal effort. With better physical fitness comes more energy and less pain and discomfort throughout the day.

To achieve optimal health, you should include exercises that focus on the four physical fitness areas: aerobic fitness, muscular fitness, flexibility and body composition.

– Aerobic fitness helps your body use the oxygen you breath for energy and strengthens your heart.

– Muscular fitness aids your muscles’ abilities to perform tasks.

– Flexibility enhances the movement of your joints and the ability of your muscles to stretch through an entire range of motion.

– Body composition refers to fat tissue to lean tissue ratio. Too much body fat puts you at risk for developing many health problems.

All four of these areas of physical fitness are inter-related.

Walking is a great example. Walking is a primarily aerobic activity. However, your ability to walk depends on your muscular fitness and the flexibility of your hips.

If you have greater hip and leg strength, your body may carry you farther and faster without your losing your breath. If your body composition is made up of a small amount of fat, there is less weight to carry along with you.

So what is aerobic exercise?

Aerobic exercise involves any activity that makes your heart and lungs work harder than they do during regular daily activities.

Most aerobic exercises keep your whole body moving in a continuous and rhythmic manner. Examples include walking, biking, dancing, skating and rowing.

As a result of regular aerobic exercise, your heart, lungs and blood vessels function more efficiently and it is easier for the heart to pump blood and oxygen to the active parts of the body. This gives you more stamina.

Aerobic training can have many health benefits including: lowered blood pressure, lowered risk of heart disease and diabetes, improved mood, increased energy level, better sleep and higher self-esteem.

So what is strength training?

Strength training typically involves weight-lifting or the use of training machines and equipment. It used to be something only athletes did, but not anymore. Strength training has many benefits as part of a fitness program.

Strength training keeps bones strong and allows for a physically active lifestyle along with more energy and less risk of injury.

Increased muscular strength and endurance can also result from strength training. This can lead to the ability to work longer before tiring, as well as increased bone strength, and improved balance.

To achieve the optimal health benefits of training, aerobic exercises should be performed for at least 30 continuous minutes on five to seven days of the week.

In order to condition all of the major muscle groups, eight to 10 different strength training exercises should be performed twice a week with at least one day of rest between sessions.

If you are not familiar with strength training, seek the advice of a certified personal trainer or an exercise specialist for proper techniques and work-loads.

Penn State Extension offers a program called Strong Women/Growing Stronger that is designed for men and women to increase strength in a community setting.

For more information about that program, go to https://extension.psu.edu/strongwomen-growing-stronger.


Laurie Welch is a nutrition and family issues educator with Penn State Cooperative Extension, 570-726-0022.


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