Why Does Cardio Get All the Credit?

Your hear should definitely feel it when you lift. Don’t undervalue strength training.

When it comes to cardiovascular health, weight loss, or overall health improvements, cardio seems to always get the spotlight. I get it, it is good for you and, for the most part, everyone can do it in some form or another; however, I also believe strength training is significantly undervalued in terms of health and wellness. Allow me to elaborate.

When it comes to cardiovascular health, weight loss, or overall health improvements, cardio seems to always get the spotlight. I get it, it is good for you and, for the most part, everyone can do it in some form or another; however, I also believe strength training is significantly undervalued in terms of health and wellness. Allow me to elaborate.

The Importance of Heart Health

Aerobic or cardiovascular exercise is often part of the prescription for those with high blood pressure or for individuals looking to improve overall cardiovascular health. In fact, for people who would benefit from lowering their blood pressure or cholesterol, the American Heart Association recommends 40 minutes of aerobic exercise of moderate to vigorous intensity three to four times a week.1

Nowhere is the recommendation is strength training mentioned. Why? Apparently, it’s not considered a necessity for heart health. I don’t know about you, but my heart definitely feels it when I lift. So, to me, strength training should most definitely be part of a healthy heart regimen.

Turns out, I’m not alone. In the most recent issue of The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, researchers found that resistance training promoted a greater nocturnal fall in blood pressure among hypertensive elderly subjects compared with subjects who completed interval aerobic training.2 This is important because an appropriate fall in blood pressure at night is associated with reduced cardiovascular risk.

Another study concluded that strength training in older adults decreased levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) while increasing HDL (good cholesterol) levels.3 Your cardiovascular system could definitely benefit from those results.

Increase Your Metabolic Health

Individuals suffering from symptoms of metabolic syndrome would also benefit from resistance training, particularly those living with Type 2 diabetes. A study found that 16 weeks of strength training resulted in increased muscle quality and hypertrophy and also improved whole body insulin sensitivity and reductions in inflammation.7

Another study published in the Journal of Diabetes came to a similar conclusion. Researchers looked at the effects a 12-week resistance training program had on older women and found that the training reduced the risk of metabolic syndrome while promoting improvements in inflammatory markers, regardless of dietary intervention.8

Weight Training Is Good for Weight Loss

Weight loss is really where resistance training gets kicked to the curb. Cardio is touted as being the golden ticket to a lean body, however I must disagree. While cardio has its place in fat reduction, strength training may be a more sustainable, long-term option.

Resistance training not only prevents the loss of lean body mass (which is known to occur naturally as we age, with extended bouts of cardio, as well as dietary restriction), but it also increases levels of lean muscle. As a result of greater muscle protein turnover, increasing lean body mass results in an increase in resting metabolic rate (RMR).9 This conservative increase in RMR could seriously add up if you maintained a strength program over the course of your lifetime.

Increase Your Longevity

Lastly, lifting may also help extend your life expectancy, not to mention improve your quality of life over those extra years. A 2016 study4 found that those adults 65 years and older who participated in the American College of Sports Medicine-recommended twice weekly strength training sessions had 46% lower odds of all-cause mortality than those who did not.5

Another 2016 study, this one published in The American Journal of Medicine, looked at over 3,500 participants made up of men over the age of 55 and women over the age of 65 and found that “all-cause mortality was significantly lower in the fourth quartile of muscle mass index compared with the first quartile.”6 In other words, those older adults with more muscle mass had a much smaller risk of dying.

Get to That Squat Rack

As you can see, the squat rack should not be ignored in a solid health and fitness program. If you’re not already, make it a point to lift something heavy a couple times a week, your body, health and mind will thank you.


1. “American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults.” Accessed June 27, 2018.

2. Bertani, Rodrigo F., Giulliard O. Campos, Diego M. Perseguin, José M.t. Bonardi, Eduardo Ferriolli, Julio C. Moriguti, and Nereida K.c. Lima. “Resistance Exercise Training Is More Effective than Interval Aerobic Training in Reducing Blood Pressure During Sleep in Hypertensive Elderly Patients.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 32, no. 7 (2018): 2085-090.

3. Martins, Raul A., Manuel T. Veríssimo, Manuel J Coelho E Silva, Sean P. Cumming, and Ana M. Teixeira. “Effects of Aerobic and Strength-based Training on Metabolic Health Indicators in Older Adults.” Lipids in Health and Disease 9, no. 1 (2010): 76. doi:10.1186/1476-511x-9-76.

4. Kraschnewski, Jennifer L., Christopher N. Sciamanna, Jennifer M. Poger, Liza S. Rovniak, Erik B. Lehman, Amanda B. Cooper, Noel H. Ballentine, and Joseph T. Ciccolo. “Is Strength Training Associated with Mortality Benefits? A 15 Year Cohort Study of US Older Adults.” Preventive Medicine 87 (2016): 121-27. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.02.038.

5. Pollock, Michael L., Glenn A. Gaesser, Janus D. Butcher, Jean-Pierre Després, Rod K. Dishman, Barry A. Franklin, and Carol Ewing Garber. “ACSM Position Stand.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 30, no. 6 (1998): 975-91. doi:10.1249/00005768-199806000-00032.

6. Srikanthan, Preethi, and Arun S. Karlamangla. “Muscle Mass Index As a Predictor of Longevity in Older Adults.” The American Journal of Medicine 127, no. 6 (2014): 547-53. doi:10.1016/j.amjmed.2014.02.007.

7. Brooks, Naomi, Jennifer E. Layne, Patricia L. Gordon, Ronenn Roubenoff, Miriam E. Nelson, and Carmen Castaneda-Sceppa. “Strength Training Improves Muscle Quality and Insulin Sensitivity in Hispanic Older Adults with Type 2 Diabetes.” International Journal of Medical Sciences, 2007, 19-27. doi:10.7150/ijms.4.19.

8. Tomeleri, Crisieli M., Mariana F. Souza, Roberto C. Burini, Cláudia R. Cavaglieri, Alex S. Ribeiro, Melissa Antunes, João P. Nunes, Danielle Venturini, Décio S. Barbosa, Luís B. Sardinha, and Edilson S. Cyrino. “Resistance Training Reduces Metabolic Syndrome and Inflammatory Markers in Older Women: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of Diabetes 10, no. 4 (2017): 328-37. doi:10.1111/1753-0407.12614.

9. Evans, W. J. “Protein Nutrition and Resistance Exercise.” Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology 26, no. 6 (2001).

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