Getting into shape in 2018: should you do weight training or cardio?

fitness, weights or cardio, kettle mag,
Written by Nigel Simpkins

If you've been anywhere near social media over the past few days, you'll know that for many people, a new year means a new fitness regime. If all those gym selfies have got you thinking about your own fitness goals, then perhaps it's time to shake up your routine to make it extra-effective. But there's just one question: should you focus on cardio, or weight training?

Here, we re-open the age-old debate about which is more effective, including the advantages and disadvantages of each type of exercise, and a few tips for getting your most effective workouts ever. Just read on to learn everything you need to know to make 2018 your fittest, healthiest year yet. 

What are the pros and cons of cardio? 

Cardio is essentially any physical activity that raises your heartrate and increases blood circulation throughout your body. It’s an effective calorie-burner, and will improve your overall cardiovascular and heart health. It's also one of the easiest ways to release the feel-good endorphins that cause that post work-out high, meaning it's a great way to combat depression and other mood disorders. In fact, it’s such an important part of a healthy lifestyle that the NHS recommends that all adults get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise every week. 

However, there is a slight downside. If your overall fitness goal is weight loss, then you should bear in mind that it may take more than just a couple of sessions jogging on the treadmill every week to help you lose that extra Christmas weight. While cardio does burn calories, it’s easy to ingest more calories than you can burn off, especially given that cardio workouts can make you hungry. This means, for cardio to be truly effective, you'll also have to monitor your calorific intake to make sure that you're not eating more than you're burning. 

What makes an effective cardio workout? 

The good news is that cardio can be almost anything that gets your heart pumping: running, swimming, sports like football and netball, and even energetic dancing on a night out will all get your heartrate into your target zone. So, cardio doesn’t have to involve hours at the gym, and there are plenty of ways to get your fix for free if you can't afford a pricey membership. 

All you'll need for an effective cardio workout is a pair of trainers and a willingness to get moving. If you're not sure where to start, try signing up for a group activity like a parkrun in your local area — it's free and open to runners of every experience level. 

What are the pros and cons of weight training?

There's a common misconception that weight training is only for experienced athletes, or those looking to bulk up and gain muscle mass. But this isn't true: weight training has numerous benefits for people with a number of different fitness goals. It can condition and tone muscles, and increases the strength of your connective tissues and tendons, reducing the risk of injury. It can even improve your bone density, lessening the risk of osteoporosis as you age. 

For many people, the biggest obstacle to taking up weight training is the fact that they can’t afford access to a full range of gym equipment. But, if you can’t afford to get to the gym, you can still get a killer weight training session at home using just a few basic pieces of equipment. A kettlebell is a super-versatile weight that can be used across multiple workouts, and can target different areas of the body. This selection of kettlebells from Powerhouse Fitness contains weights to suit every experience level, and there are options for every budget, too. 

Cardio vs. weight training: which is better?

In short, there's no definitive answer to this question: what will work best for you will depend entirely on your lifestyle, and what you hope to achieve. Cardio is thought to be the more effective type of exercise for weight loss, given that it burns more calories, and it’s certainly the most effective way to improve your cardiovascular fitness. But, weight training is an excellent way to strengthen, tone, and condition your muscles, meaning it that it’s a good option for those looking to achieve a sculpted physique.

Which type of training will be most beneficial for you will depend on your individual fitness goals, so you'll have to consider other factors, like your diet and the frequency of your workouts. You might also find that you prefer one to the other — some people love the empowering feeling that weight training gives them, while others live the for the adrenaline rush that cardio brings. 

Get the best of both with a dual-workout

If you want to get the benefits of both, then try a workout that combines both aerobic training with some strength training. Workout Trainer is a fitness app which will tailor a fitness regime to your goals, and contains tutorials for workouts that incorporate both weight training and cardio. The best part? You can do them from home, meaning there's no need to splash the cash at the gym. 

Whether this is the beginning of your fitness journey, or you’re just getting back into the swing of things after the Christmas holidays, combining cardio and weight training can make for an effective workout. Just follow these tips to get 2018 off to a great start.