Resistance training improves cardiovascular fitness
I have never been a fan of the term "cardio." Personally, I find too many people get their mind stuck with generalizing terms such as "resistance training" and "cardio." The common belief is that resistance training, aka, lifting weights, makes muscles large and bulky and "cardio" is long, drawn-out exercise in which you move your body in a way to get your heart rate up as high as possible for either intervals of time (interval training), or an extended period of time (running, swimming, cycling). In actuality, the lines between various forms of exercise are far less defined.
I have written about this very topic in the past, focusing on the idea that, for whatever reason, "cardiovascular exercise" is believed to be superior for burning body fat. This is simply not true at all.
So, I believe there are two main reasons why individuals use "cardiovascular exercise" (in its most common believed forms - interval training or steady state).
- A belief that periods of high heart rate (i.e. interval training), or steady state heart rate (i.e. distance running/swimming/cycling) are superior for weight/fat loss. Although these types of training can be effective for losing weight/body fat, they should by no means be considered superior to an effective resistance training program.
- A belief that periods of high heart rate (i.e. interval training), or steady state heart rate (i.e. distance running/swimming/cycling) are superior for training for cardiovascular health.
A recently-released research study examined the topic mentioned in #2. You would think that to improve the health of your cardiovascular system, that you would need to increase your heart rate to high levels by means of running, jumping, swimming, sprinting, or cycling, right? Well, not so fast.
The results of chronic physiological adaptations demonstrate that resistance training to momentary muscular failure produces a number of physiological adaptations, which may facilitate the observed improvements in cardiovascular fitness. The adaptations may include an increase in mitochondrial enzymes, mitochondrial proliferation, phenotypic conversion from type IIx towards type IIa muscle fibers, and vascular remodeling (including capillarization). Resistance training to momentary muscular failure causes sufficient acute stimuli to produce chronic physiological adaptations that enhance cardiovascular fitness. This review appears to be the first to present this conclusion and, therefore, it may help stimulate a changing paradigm addressing the misnomer of ‘cardiovascular’ exercise as being determined by modality.
Remember, the human body responds to stresses placed upon it by adapting in very specific ways. What I would consider "standard" views on cardiovascular fitness (running, cycling, swimming) for extended periods of time, or in short bursts of intense effort (interval training) can be a very effective way of improving cardiovascular fitness. However, it is not the only way.