A Common Answer to Common Health and Fitness Questions

When it comes to health and fitness, there are a number of long-running (occasionally passionate) debates that could each be settled by the same one-word answer:

  • Diet or exercise?
  • Strength training or cardio?
  • Weights or resistance bands?

And the common answer? Both.

We know that no matter how hard you exercise, you can’t maintain a healthy weight if your dietary habits are out of balance. We also know that exercise is critical to long-term health, especially as we age. We know that cardiovascular exercises strengthen our heart, lungs, and endurance. And we know that strength training builds muscle and bone and protects against injury age-related declines.

So eat right and exercise regularly — with both cardio and strength training.

For that third question, though, there’s a bit more nuance. Weights and resistance bands both have their place. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. Weights may be a better fit for one person while resistance bands work better for another. It depends a lot on personal preference and individual circumstance — and again, you could probably make good use of both.

Weights

The classic way to make yourself strong has always been to lift something heavy, and weights remain the preferred choice of many dedicated bodybuilders. Weights are durable and clearly marked, so you always know exactly how much you’re lifting, making it easy to monitor your training and track your improvements.

If you’re just starting out with weights, it would be a good idea to work for a while with a personal trainer to learn the ins and outs of proper technique and some of the more mysterious machines. You wouldn’t want to end up on YouTube.

Resistance Bands and Tubing

Elastic resistance is more of a newcomer to the weight room and is sometimes seen by veteran weight lifters as an “easier” workout — something for beginners or for injury rehab. But in truth, the varying resistance levels of these bands can provide a workout as difficult as any weight set. They’re also less expensive and more portable than free weights or weight machines.

With resistance bands and tubing, you can perform bicep curls, chest and shoulder presses, tricep extensions, and squats. If you anchor the band safely to a door or wall attachment, you can add rows, lunges, rotations, and more. 

Resistance bands can be tossed into a briefcase or purse and used for a quick workout during a lunch break or on a business trip. You might get a better workout by dragging a pair of twelve-pound dumbbells around in a suitcase, but most of us would rather save our workout for our workout — not for struggling with an airplane’s overhead bin.

Whichever way you decide to go — weights or bands — the key is to just do it. Strength training two or three times a week seems to be the sweet spot for lifetime benefits. And don’t forget to throw in some cardio and healthy eating, too!