Strength vs. Aerobic Training: Which is more important?

Both strength and aerobic training are important for optimal physical fitness. Learn how to improve your health in both of these areas.
Strength vs. Aerobic Training: Which is more important? - Articles


Both strength and aerobic training are important for overall physical fitness. (Photo credit: Vanessa, Flickr Creative Commons)

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:

  1. Aerobic fitness helps your body use the oxygen you breathe for energy and strengthens your heart.
  2. Muscular fitness aids your muscles' ability to perform tasks.
  3. Flexibility enhances the movement of your joints and the ability of your muscles to stretch through an entire range of motion.
  4. Body composition refers to the fat tissue to lean tissue ratio. Too much body fat puts you at risk for developing many health problems, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

All four areas of physical fitness are interrelated. Walking, a primarily aerobic activity, is a great example. However, your ability to walk depends on your muscular fitness and the flexibility in your hips. If you have greater hip and leg strength, your body may carry you farther and faster without 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.

Tip: Think of exercise as a savings account--the more you put into it, the more you get out of it; some is better than none; a little bit every day can add up over time. It's an important investment!

What is Aerobic Training?

Aerobic exercise involves any activity or exercise 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 rhythmic and continuous 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 your heart to pump blood and oxygen to the active parts of your body. This will give you more stamina.

Aerobic training can have many health benefits, including lower blood pressure, reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes, improved mood, better sleep, and higher self-esteem.

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, increased bone strength, and improved balance.

Training Programs for Health

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 ten 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 workloads.

Examine Your Choices

ExerciseWhat I do nowWhat I plan to change
Add weight training to my routineWalk 30 minutes 2 or 3 days a weekAdd light weight training 2 days a week for 15 to 30 minutes during lunchtime
Enhance my strength training routineEngage in 30 minutes of aerobic activity 5 to 7 days a week and some strength trainingUse free weights or weight machines for 30 to 60 minutes 2 days a week

My Goal





ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. 9th ed. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2014

Written by Heather Baranoski, certified wellness coach. Revised by Laurie Welch, extension educator.