To lift, or to run, is a question every fitness enthusiast comes across when he or she thinks about losing some inches and pounds. Is it necessary to choose between the two? We’ll get there, but lets first put things into perspective.
Both type of trainings, weight lifting and running, have their own benefits. No form of training is superior or inferior than the other and that’s because both of them serve a different purpose in making the human body more efficient. People often forget to acknowledge that weight lifting and running are different types of exercise altogether. They think that, there is a choice to be made between the two! The truth however, is that, we must incorporate both into our exercise regime to get the benefits of both the activities. Let’s talk about each activity in detail and discuss its benefits.
Running is a form of an aerobic activity (an activity that goes on for longer than 3 minutes) which, when done properly builds ones cardiovascular capacity enabling the heart and lungs to transport blood and oxygen more efficiently through the body. Cycling, jogging, climbing, swimming are other forms of aerobic activities.
One benefit of running or doing any other endurance activity (which challenges your heart rate) is improved capillary density as a result of allowing maximum amount of blood to saturate the left ventricle of the heart. As the amount of blood which the heart needs to pump goes up, the walls of the heart stretch and through this adaptation process the left ventricle gets bigger and starts allowing more blood to flow thus causing an increase in the blood pumped by the heart in one beat. More the blood pumped per beat, the better is our endurance.
In a nutshell, running should be done for a stronger heart instead of for losing inches off your belly or love handles, because a stronger heart means better endurance, better blood flow and more efficient muscles. Here’s a word of caution for beginners. Running is a skill that’s fast gaining popularity. Those who attempt to do it without adequate guidance, often end up with chronic injuries because of the strong ‘ground reaction forces’ generated as they run. One must learn basic running techniques and warm and cool down routines before embarking on long distance runs.
Weight lifting is a form of anaerobic activity (done in short yet intense bursts) which is paramount to increase strength, build muscle mass and increase anaerobic endurance. In other words it helps increase the strength and size of our muscles. Increasing muscle mass is very important in terms of changing one’s overall body composition. More the lean muscle mass, the less fat your body will store. Also, being lean and muscular means that your metabolism is constantly on fire. This means, weight lifting will improve your metabolism because muscle is a metabolically active tissue. People who think they don’t need to lift weights because they don’t want big muscles are wrong, because lifting weights isn’t just about increasing the size of one’s muscle. Weightlifting makes you more efficient in doing several day to day tasks which you cannot do without sufficient muscular strength e.g. lifting a heavy object from the ground without injuring your back.
Apart from increased metabolism which assists fat loss, weight lifting has further benefits such as increasing bone density, improving posture, reducing stress and of course tremendous gains in strength. At this point we must also stress upon the fact that weight lifting does not inherently increase the size of your muscles. Whether you want to look lean or built is your choice, but achieving both these types of physique requires hard work and is largely dependant on your nutrition and hormones. The primary objective of lifting weights however remains gain in strength not size.
So, coming back to our original question, to lift, or to run? The answer is, “To do both!”. Only then can you achieve maximum benefits from your workout regime. A good fitness training program should incorporate dedicated days for weight lifting and also for running. Since, both activities require a lot of strength, be it cardiac, or muscular, doing a bit of both on the same day is not advisable as it can be very taxing on the body and the central nervous system and might result in injury.