Diet & Exercise: The benefits of weight training and aerobic exercise

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, May 25, 2017

I truly enjoy answering all the questions I receive regarding diet and exercise, and one I get often is particularly interesting: Which is best for me: weight training exercise or aerobic exercise? The short answer is both… but let’s explore what each of these forms of exercise involves, and how they benefit us. 

Weight training, or resistance training, is a type of exercise that strengthens skeletal muscles, using weight force of gravity to resist pressure by muscles through concentric (raising weight), and eccentric (lowering weight) movements. This style of exercise can be performed using weighted bars, dumbbells, kettlebells, cable pulleys, resistance bands, and weight lifting machines.

During aerobic (meaning, with oxygen) exercise, your body utilizes deep breathing to generate oxygen to help muscles perform movements. There are many kinds of aerobic exercise, including walking, running, dancing, cycling, rollerblading, cross-country skiing, tennis, hiking, rowing, and swimming. 

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Each of these two exercise schemes, whether weight training or aerobic training, is invaluable for specific, but different reasons. By the way, no matter your age, you can benefit greatly from both of these exercise forms. I’ve trained folks who didn’t even begin exercising until they were 90 years of age, and I’ve worked with kids as young as nine years old.

Benefits derived from weight training include:

Fat loss: Muscle is active tissue, and requires constant maintenance by the body. For every ounce of muscle you build, you’ll burn extra calories 24 hours every day (yes, even while you sleep), which makes you lose body fat.

Decreasing sarcopenia: Sarcopenia is the degenerative loss of muscle mass. By the way, you don’t have to be elderly to lose muscle. Muscle mass is lost at the rate of 0.5 percent per year after the age of 25. That’s significant, and really adds up.

With this loss of muscle comes overall weakness, loss of balance, bone mass loss (osteoporosis), and of course, increased body fat. That’s right, the less muscle you have, the more fat you will gain. Don’t worry though, it’s okay, you can turn it around with proper exercise.

Improved bone density: When muscles contract, they pull against tendons, which attach muscles to bone. The brain senses this pressure, then signals the body to harden its bones.

Strengthens connective tissue: Here again, weight training involves use of muscles, tendons (hold muscles to bones), and ligaments (hold bones to bones) working in concert. This results in much better balance, added strength, and improved motor skills.

Here are a few benefits of aerobic (with oxygen) exercise:

Much improved mental health: During aerobic exercise the brain releases endorphins, which actually act as natural painkillers, and also reduce mental stress, anxiety, and depression.

Better cardiovascular health: During aerobic exercise the heart pumps more blood per beat. This translates to decreased heart rate during relaxation and exercise, and builds a stronger heart.

Boosts your immune system: Aerobic (and weight training) sends antibodies white blood cells (the body’s defense cells) throughout the body at a faster pace. Also, the temporary rise in body temperature from aerobic exercise helps cripple viruses and bacteria.

When choosing to do weight training and aerobic exercises on the same day, there is no rule as to which type should be performed first. Don’t begin any exercise program without first checking with your doctor, and always get advice from an exercise expert. This will keep you safe and greatly facilitate your progress.

Diet or exercise question? Email me at David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist and master personal trainer for 29 years.