Is Cardio Fitness or Muscular Strength More Important for Longevity?

People want to believe what they’re doing is good for them. This is true of endurance runners, who’ve spent too much time, money, and nipple skin on their calling to believe anything else. Same goes for the dedicated lifters, who struggle to find pants that fit off the rack because of the hours logged in a squat rack. There is an ongoing debate about the merits of cardio over lifting that sometimes feels more like justifying one’s behavior than searching for a scientific explanation. Particularly, the debate of which one is best for longevity.

Optimizing longevity, or the amount and (quality) of time spent alive, has been around way before tech mogul and headline magnet Bryan Johnson began talking about his supplement and penis shockwave therapy regimen. It plays out on Reddit on a cadence that almost seems scheduled. People throw PubMed reference IDs at each other, get mad, and then go for a jog or a lift about it, depending on their previous allegiances.

Runners will tout the heart-boosting effects of aerobic fitness, while the iron-pumpers will point out that muscle mass and grip strength are associated with lower overall rates of death and negative cardiovascular events. And they’re both right. Unfortunately for the absolutists, the answer for the key to longevity, with respect to cardio and lifting, is probably a combination. Last year, a massive cohort study of 416,240 American adults published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine found that moderate to vigorous physical activity, in a dose as small as an hour every week, significantly reduced mortality risk.

But the greatest protection, as noted by The New York Times, comes from a mix of cardio plus strength training—though the article also notes that we don’t yet have a strong grip on the connection between strength training and extending our lifespan. (In other words, it appears to be good, but we’re not exactly sure why.)

Cardio and strength are both great for you. But deep down, you should know in your heart, that the best thing for your heart appears to be both workouts. And you can always log a little more physical activity by fighting about it.

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