A healthy exercise plan should include cardio, strength training (i.e., with resistance such as weights, bands, body weight, etc), and stretching. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends:
Obviously, that is what I would recommend to everyone for a healthy lifestyle. Also obviously, not everyone has time for that consistently. As often as you can, you should strive to achieve the goals above. When that is absolutely not possible, what should you choose – cardio or strength training?
“Researchers assigned roughly 150 overweight, sedentary adults with elevated LDL (“bad”) cholesterol or low HDL (“good”) cholesterol to one of three groups. The aerobic group did the equivalent of 12 miles of brisk walking per week (using treadmills, elliptical trainers, or stationary cycles and a heart rate monitor to make sure that they were at 75 percent of their oxygen capacity). The strength group did three sets of eight weight-lifting exercises using major muscle groups three days a week. The aerobic + strength group did both.
“After eight months, both the aerobic and the aerobic + strength groups had less liver fat, less visceral (deep) and subcutaneous (just below the skin) abdominal fat, and less insulin resistance. The strength group only had less subcutaneous abdominal fat.” (Schardt, Nutrition Action)
Cardio and strength training (along with stretching) should be included in your exercise program to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Cardio helps maintain a healthy cardiovascular system and strength training increases your metabolism and prevents or minimizes muscle loss as you age. Both help you burn calories to loss weight. However, if you find that you only have time for one or two workouts per week and are looking to lose weight, choose the aerobic or cardio workout. Over the long run, it will help reduce more of the deep (visceral) fat as well as the subcutaneous fat (just below the skin). It can also reduce insulin resistance, which means reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Healthy, happy exercising!
Garber, Carol Ewing Ph.D., FACSM, et al; Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory, Musculoskeletal, and Neuromotor Fitness in Apparently Healthy Adults: Guidance for Prescribing Exercise. Available: http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2011/07000/Quantity_and_Quality_of_Exercise_for_Developing.26.aspx. Last Accessed 6th June 2012.
Schardt, David. “Exercise Run-Off.” Nutrition Action 39.5, June 2012: 8. Print