Current standard exercise recommendation (CDC, NHS, Mayo Clinic, etc) is: 75 min of vigorous exercise + at least 2 sessions of strength training per week.

I don't get this sharp distinction between the two, because what is strength training if not vigorous exercise itself?

I lift weights 4 x 1h per week. Taking away breaks between series, that's at least 60 to 120 min of vigorous exercise lifting weights. Why is this amount of time counted separately from the 75 min of recommended vigorous exercise?

I'm trying to understand whether it's possible to reach recommendations through lifting alone, and if it is then what's the minimum amount.

(note: I know cardio is good for health, that's not the point here)

2 Answers 2


Current standard exercise recommendations are moderate (eg. brisk walking) or vigorous exercise (eg. running) + strength training.

I believe the main motivation for this distinction is to ensure that people do the strength training.

However The HUNT Fitness Study found that the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease decreases with increasing VO2 max.

A meta study found that the average V02 max from strength training alone is 44 ml/kg/min.

VO2 max decreases with age. According to this chart 44 ml/kg/min is merely above average for a 25 year old male while it is excellent for a male older than 46 years. However this chart is based on percentiles of the (sendentary) population and therefore underestimates the older. It is likely that 44 ml/kg/min is merely good for a male older than 46 years.

Weight lifting is not intense for the heart and the lungs compared to eg. high intensity interval training. As an experiment I used a watch with a heart rate monitor during a strength training workout. According to my watch this workout was moderately intense and did not increase my VO2 max. The following day I ran intervals. According to my watch that workout was very intense and did increase my VO2 max.

I believe the health recommendations are somewhat cautious and skewed towards the older population. If you still are fairly young and fit I think you should do some (high intensity) cardio.

Further reading

The Big Misconception About Weight Lifting

Is Your VO2 Max High Enough to Prevent Heart Disease?

VO2 max: can veteran athletes prevent a decline in aerobic capacity?

  • 1
    mmm...I would debate the extrapolation that cardio is less important, especially if you are using VO2 max. VO2 max is weight based, so one of the reasons a middling VO2 becomes better is because so much of the population simply gets fatter.
    – JohnP
    Jun 4, 2019 at 19:47
  • If you are arguing that VO2 max requirements are too low for the older in the V02 max norm chart; I agree. According to this study: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2361923 the decline in VO2 max is approximately 1 %/year for sendentary men and 0.5 %/year for active men. There however seems to be an an unevitable decline that will make cardio less important with increasing age. Just not as rapidly as I estimated. I would guess that 44 ml/kg/min is good (not excellent) for a male over 46 year.
    – Andy
    Jun 4, 2019 at 20:10
  • 1
    Mmm... sort of. Take a 25 year old in avg shape, vo2 of 50 ml/etc. Take same person in exact same shape and add 30 lbs over the next 15 years. Even though they are in the same shape, vo2 will be lower simply because they weigh more. There are other age factors of course, but weight based is one reason I don't like vo2 as a metric, except as a predictor of potential.
    – JohnP
    Jun 4, 2019 at 21:35
  • Good point. Had not thought of that.
    – Andy
    Jun 5, 2019 at 6:46

Current standard exercise recommendation is 75 min of vigorous aerobic exercise + at least 2 sessions of strength training per week.

It is in that recommendation from NHS or here or in this study

To maintain or improve your health, adults need to do aerobic and strength exercises every week.

At least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity and strength exercises on two or more days a week


75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity every week, and strength exercises on two or more days a week

Studies recommend both, aerobic activities and strength exercises. Each has its advantages.

  • Aerobic physical activity helps to protect and maintain heart, lung, and circulatory health.
  • Muscle strength is necessary to build and maintain strong bones, muscles, joints, and tendons.

Yes, strength training affects the cardiovascular system and heart health, and so on. But strength training will never have such beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system and heart like aerobic exercise and aerobic exercise will never have such beneficial effects on muscles and bones like strength training. Just like you don't build muscle with aerobic exercise and don't build endurance with exercising for one repetition.

  • Aerobic training more effectively builds the body's ability to deliver oxygen to tissues and use it.
  • Strength training affects heart health more indirectly. By increasing muscle mass, it gives your cardiovascular system more places to store its blood, thereby reducing blood pressure on the arterial walls.

This study has shown that a combination of aerobic and resistance training has a better effect on health than aerobic or resistance exercise alone.

This study has shown that aerobic training is more beneficial than resistance training for patients who are at risk of developing cardiovascular diseases due to obesity.

So it is possible to reach recommendations through lifting alone?

The answer is NO.


According to some sources, you can "skip" aerobic training when you have big NEAT within employment - when you perform an aerobic activity at your work.

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