Cardio vs. Weight Training: Recommendations For Older Athletes

Is Cardio Or Lifting Better For Older Endurance Athletes? EndurElite Chief Endurance Officer Matt Mosman discusses the latest research on this topic and provides solutions on how older endurance athletes can remain competitive.

Cardio vs. Weight Lifting Fast Facts For Older Athletes:

  • Lifting weights is better than cardio for preserving lean muscle mass as you age due to its anabolic nature.
  • Cardio can cause a decrease in lean muscle mass in older athletes due to its catabolic nature.
  • Both weight training and cardio can help older endurance athletes keep off unwanted weight and improve quality of life.
  • Ideally, older endurance athletes should weight train and do cardio.
  • Older athletes should weight train 2-3 times/week and do cardio 2-3 times/week with scheduled rest days.

Full Video Transcription:

Good morning, family of FAST. Matt Mosman, the chief endurance officer over at EndurElite. I was on my way to the gym today and to get super swole, when an interesting article popped up in my email titled "Weight training is better than cardio for older adults." Now, usually, my BS alarm would go off here.

I wouldn't buy into this clickbait type of title, but I was like, "I like weight training. I like cardio. I'm kind of an old fart." So against my better judgment, I clicked on the email. And it opened up and there was a huge article explaining why weight training is better than cardio for older adults. But it was written by a less than reliable or good source. But the good news for us is there is actually a research study mentioned in the article.

So instead of reading that fluffy bullshit article, I went right to the research study to kinda find out why they're claiming that the weight training is better than cardio for older adults.

Why Is Weight Lifting Better Than Cardio For Older Adults?

So, opened up the research study. And the research study examined the effects of, basically, weight training and a diet versus diet and cardio as it relates to body composition, so lean muscle mass and fat tissue. So the study was done by Kristen Beavers at Wake State. And basically, what she did is she took a group of 250 older adults, so in their 60s, that were a little bit overweight and she put them into one of three groups.

Who Were The Subjects?

The first group was a diet-only group, the second group was diet and weight training, and the third group was diet and cardio. So this whole study was 18 months long. So they did the diet for 18 months, they did the diet and the weight training program for 18 months, and they did the diet and a cardio program for 18 months, where the cardio involved walking, with the end result trying to figure out which method or which group had the greatest changes in body composition.

What Were The Results?

So preserving lean mass and losing fat mass is what they were really looking at. So at the end of the 18 months, the researches did their researchy things, calculated all the data and so on and so forth. And what they found was the group that did the diet plus the weight training were able to preserve the greatest amounts of lean mass while also losing the greatest amounts of fat. Surprisingly, as the researchers found, that the diet plus cardio actually lost more lean muscle mass than the diet group alone, which is really, really interesting, but not.

Take Home Point: Weight Training Is More Anabolic While Cardio Is More Catabolic

So these results or these findings aren't like a-ha, it's something that we kinda all know. Here's why. Basically, when you're doing a weight training program, it's a very anabolic activity, or muscle building, or in this case, muscle preserving, where, on the other hand, cardio plus diet is more of a catabolic activity, so it breaks down muscle tissue. So it's not surprising that the researchers discovered what they did, that the weight training plus diet led to the greatest effects as far as preserving lean muscle mass and fat mass compared to the other couple groups just because of the anabolic nature of the weight lifting and the catabolic nature of the cardio or the walking.

So the title is doesn't sit well with me because it's not necessarily better, it's different. And it really depends on what you wanna do, too, as you age. And it doesn't account for what you actually like to do. So if you like weight lifting and you wanna do that, that's great. If you wanna do cardio and you like that, that's great. Both are very healthy activities. And yeah, you probably are gonna lose more lean muscle mass as you age just from sarcopenia to begin with, but if you continue to do cardio exercise, it probably is gonna be a little more catabolic.

Do Both Weight Training And Cardio As You Age

So what's the solution? Well, it's easy. You do both as you age. So usually, my recommendations if you wanna remain a competitive endurance athlete or if you're just looking to stay in shape as you get older, you can still do the cardio, but I would definitely, definitely and highly recommend you get your butt in the gym at least two to three times a week. And it doesn't have to be anything crazy. You can go in for 30 minutes, do a lot of compound movements, and get a good workout, and preserve that lean muscle tissue, so you can remain a competitive endurance athlete. And then, beyond that, to kind of lessen sarcopenia and then have a better quality of life as far as functional mobility and activities of daily living because that is important. As you get older, you definitely wanna preserve lean muscle mass.

So that is all I have for today my endurance friends. Really, the take-home point is as you get older, lift weights, continue doing your cardio, eat a healthy diet, and you'll be right as rain. So if you have an older buddy, like over 35, which is old as dirt, please share this video with them. If you want other videos like this on endurance training, nutrition, supplementation, other random musings, busting the BS, subscribe to the EndurElite YouTube channel or head on over to the EndurElite blog at Get social with us on Instagram and our super awesome family of fast Facebook page. Try to say that three times fast. And until next time, stay fueled, stay focused, stay fast, and stay informed.