Study: Aerobic Fitness Shows Reduced Cardiometabolic Risk vs Strength Training

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A new study published in the JAMA Open seems to show that those who possess greater aerobic fitness have less cardiometabolic risk as opposed to those who prioritize strength training.[1]

The researchers involved in this study wanted to evaluate whether the metabolites associated with cardiometabolic risk were equally associated with both aerobic fitness and maximal muscular strength.

Young woman working out with an air bike.
Aerobic fitness, also called cardiorespiratory fitness in clinical medicine, is a measure of the body’s ability to take oxygen from the atmosphere and use it for energy production in the cells. Using an Air Bike is an example of a cardio workout.

The study involved many participants who were part of a military training exercise.

The participants were split up into multiple groups – those with maximal aerobic fitness, those with minimal aerobic fitness, those with maximal strength (as demonstrated on the leg extension), and those with minimal strength.

The researchers used metabolomics to study the metabolites present in the trainees blood stream.

Metabolomics is a new area of study that attempts to analyze the molecules involved in metabolic reactions to better understand health risk and fitness.

The men who had highest levels of aerobic fitness had the most desirable “signature” of metabolites in their blood stream.

This desirable signature includes high levels of certain particles of good cholesterol and healthy ratios of proteins and fatty acids, for example.

Those who had maximum strength did not show the same desirable results.

Further, both the strongest and weakest subjects had similar blood results.

The researchers official conclusion was:

“This study provides data on the association of high aerobic fitness with underlying oxidative lipid metabolism associated with a reduction in cardiometabolic risk. High maximal muscular strength is not similarly associated with these benefits.”

These findings make sense – we’ve been told for ages to not neglect our cardiorespiratory fitness.

We recommend a mix of strength training and cardio training (metcon) for optimal results.

Strength training has many benefits including improved bone density, increased calorie burn, and other factors – in addition to greater strength.

Cardio training seems to have a directly beneficial impact on cardiovascular risk – so be sure to include some of that training as well.


1. Urho M. Kujala, MD, PhD; Jani P. Vaara, PhD; Heikki Kainulainen, PhD; et al Associations of Aerobic Fitness and Maximal Muscular Strength With Metabolites in Young Men JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(8):e198265. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.8265.

Man strength training in the gym with dumbbells.
Lifting weights is normally associated with building maximal strength – but can be done for aerobic benefit as well.