What do burning fat, controlling your blood sugar, strengthening your heart and improving cholesterol have in common? They are each results from strength training and cardio training. While the benefits of both training methods mirror one another, strength training and cardio training each has its purpose and are key components that should be included in a fitness plan. So, what are the differences, and how should you balance the two?

What is strength training?

 Strength training enhances your muscle mass through resistance and weight lifting. But let’s start with one thing first; strength training is for all ages. Debunking the myths “I’m not jock enough,” or “I’m too weak to lift weights,” is important to do for your health’s sake. It can be for the young or old, and even expecting mothers. Strength training may also be used for recovery from a heart attack, if prescribed by a doctor. The difference is the appropriate amount of weight, which will vary per individual.

Your body is naturally strength training every day — while carrying groceries, a child or a laundry basket, you are exercising muscles. Muscle mass must be maintained, and it naturally diminishes with age. Don’t lose it – continue to build stronger muscles – your body will thank you for it. Besides enhancing muscles, strength training can help remove fat, develop strong bones and may assist in management for arthritis and back pain.

The more you strength train, the better your stamina will be. It’s important to remember, to not overexert a muscle. A general rule of thumb is to rest the muscles for 48 hours before refocusing on the same area. Try taking tips from the toned Mario Lopez as he explains how he balances strength training and cardio training in 5 on Fitness.

 What is cardio?

Cardio is short for cardiovascular exercise; movement that increases blood circulation throughout the body. An activity that moves your body and gets your heart pumping can be considered a cardio workout. This type of exercise on a regular basis can help keep you in shape and healthy.

When simple tasks leave you winded, it’s important to seriously consider your heart health and take part in cardio exercise. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. Find an activity you enjoy and stick to it.

It may be a love for some and a dislike for others, but elevating your heart rate has its benefits. It can reduce stress and anxiety, increase energy and act as a natural pain killer. Cardio activity can also burn fat, and it’s commonly used to burn off excess calories consumed.

Other important factors

 Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Strength training and cardio workouts can help address issues relating to cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes, which are all factors for heart disease.

 So what’s the appropriate amount of activity? This varies per individual, and many factors come into play when determining how much time to devote to exercise, such as: body type, how much and what type of cardio and weightlifting activities you are participating in, what you’re eating and ultimately what your fitness goals are. For help determining these, it’s best to consult your doctor first, then seek a trainer’s help.

There’s a third part of the equation, however, that should not be overlooked: nutrition. If you’re active for weight loss purposes, remember that calories burned versus calories consumed plays a key part in shedding pounds.

Both strength training and cardio exercise are important parts of an overall fitness plan. Feel better with more energy and confidence, and treat your body to the bountiful benefits of a healthy routine.