Pop quiz: If you had to choose between strength training and cardio, what’s the better workout? Trick question—you need to do both types of exercise to be your healthiest, fittest self. Here’s what we learned from Julian Ho, a Toronto-based fitness coach who teaches group fitness at Equinox in Yorkville Village, including the running, cycling, stretching and conditioning classes, on the benefits of each.
CARDIO ISN’T JUST FOR BURNING OFF DESSERT
Cardio (a.k.a. aerobic exercise) is any workout that gets your heart and lungs working, such as running, swimming and cycling. “Cardio conditioning is very much metabolism-based. We take in fuel, and we need to be able to use it,” says Ho. But beyond helping you burn calories, cardio comes with lots of other benefits, too: “It adds a positive stress to our overall system, which gives us a certain level of resilience. You’re conditioning your immune system, respiratory system and cardiovascular system to maintain a level of adaptability.”
STRENGTH TRAINING ISN’T JUST FOR “BULKING UP”
“Usually, people think strength training means building muscle, and cardio means getting small and skinny. But if you take the aesthetic lens away, strength is to help with joints and overall function,” explains Ho. “Your body needs to know how to use force.” Honing your strength will also help encourage your longevity. If you’re just getting into weight training, a class like Equinox’s Pure Strength offers a great introduction with a full-body focus, Ho says.
CARDIO DOESN’T HAVE TO MEAN A BORING TREADMILL RUN
If your usual sweat session is a long steady jog, there are ways to spice up your run-of-the-mill routine. Consider adding intervals into the mix (think: periods of heart-pounding effort, broken up with recovery breaks), which is what you’ll find in Equinox’s popular Precision Run class. “We do interval-based training, because it helps balance out the intensity and it’s more time-efficient,” explains Ho. “It forces the mind and body to go to a high level of intensity, but it’s dispersed through intervals of high-capacity running and then walking. So, it forces the cardio-respiratory system [heart and blood vessels, plus lungs and airways] to adapt quicker.”
HYBRID WORKOUTS ARE TRENDING
“There are disciplines that bridge the divide between strength and cardio—like Pilates, different kinds of yoga, dance and boxing,” says Ho, noting that fitness is currently trending away from “binary” workouts and toward hybrids. These cross-over offerings offer a little bit of both strength training and cardio. Plus, they’ll improve your ability to do classic cardio or strength in the future, says Ho. “Our members are all-around athletes, so they do it all. That’s why people love fitness at Equinox, because we invest so much time and expertise into a wide spread of activities, so there’s something for everyone.”