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Aerobics, Cross-training or Weight lifting?

man at gym lifting barbellOkay, you’ve decided you need to get more fit and lose a few pounds. You check out the local gyms and fitness facilities and it all seems confusing. What is it that you actually need?

Well, let’s see if this article can help break it down a little better for you. There are basically 3 different systems in the body that are affected by exercise. (If you are a medical professional reading this article, I know there is a lot more, but I’m trying to keep it simple here). Those systems are the muscles, the bones and the heart/lungs. Generally each type of exercise will affect all of the systems but will concentrate on one system more.


If you are as old as me, the word aerobics conjures up images of big-haired leotard clad models and the sounds of Olivia Newton-John singing “Let’s get Physical”. That time has passed. Aerobics is actually a term that indicates a metabolic process is happening where oxygen is being used. Just for information’s sake, anaerobic is the opposite, a process is happening with oxygen being excluded. Aerobic exercise means your breathing rate increases and you start getting sweaty. Obviously the heart and lungs are involved as well as the muscles. The ideal level of activity is at a point where you are having a little difficulty to complete a full sentence. Your heart rate tends to get used as a reference point in order to determine the level of activity as well as a general indication of fitness at rest.


So you have started a walking program. The first weeks, you could barely make it around the block without wheezing. Now you are getting more comfortable with the exertion, BUT you are getting bored. You have been doing the same route for three weeks and want to do or see something a little different. It’s time for some cross training. This level of fitness now starts to add different exercise in to train other muscles. Where you have initially been walking, you add swimming or racquet ball. You are still exercising but now you have added a few different muscles and different levels of exertion. The sky is the limit as to what you can add or change. At this level you are continuing to exercise heart and lungs. The muscles may or may not be getting as much of a benefit as the aerobics program. It depends on the activities.

Weight training

Now you are feeling pretty good and want to work a little more on strength. This is where weight training comes to the front. If you are looking for big flashy muscles that are hard to buy shirts and pants for, you will be doing heavy weights with few repetitions. If you are looking for a stronger, more toned look with muscles that can last the entire day doing work, you want to be doing more repetitions with moderate weights. The additional benefit of weight training is it is not only the muscles that benefit. This additional stress needs to be supported and the only structure you have in your body for that is the bones. Weight training has been shown to increase bone density and actually can help reverse osteoporosis to some degree. It doesn’t even matter if you are 60 or older, it will still help.

The take home message of this article is pretty simple. Just get out there and use your body. It was designed for movement.

If you have any questions, please give our office a call!

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