Muscle strength is a strong, independent predictor of all-cause mortality in adults. The more we improve our strength, the harder it is to kill us.
Aerobic fitness, measured as VO2 Max, is also a strong, independent predictor of all-cause mortality in adults. The more aerobically fit we are, the harder it is to kill us.
In fact, we are better off being strong and overweight than we are being thin and weak. Likewise, we are better off being aerobically fit and overweight than thin with poor aerobic fitness.
The best way to improve muscle strength is to perform resistance training exercises and continue our sets to the point of momentary muscle failure (or as close as possible).
The best way to improve our aerobic fitness involves performing relatively short, high-intensity (intensity is measured by heart rate) “cardio” exercise. The key is not how long we do it or how often we do it but instead, how hard we do it. This could involve 15 minutes of intense, steady-state exercise or interval training.
Authors of a brand-new meta-analysis published in the journal Physiology and Behavior concluded that middle-aged and older adults can improve muscle strength and aerobic fitness concurrently by performing resistance training and “cardio.” Performing both strength and cardio exercises throughout the week leads to greater increases in strength and aerobic capacity than performing strength or cardio alone. Additionally, adding cardio to our strength training doesn’t negatively impact our ability to improve strength, and adding strength training to cardio doesn’t negatively impact our ability to improve our aerobic fitness.
We can improve our strength and our aerobic fitness concurrently and thus maximize health-protective benefits at the same time.
Important note: Just because we are performing strength training and cardio doesn’t mean we are getting stronger or our aerobic fitness is improving. We have to work with a high enough level of intensity for these variables to improve. 10,000 steps per day won’t stimulate improvements in aerobic fitness in the vast majority of adults but 10-20 minutes of intense aerobic work will.