Cardio Vs Boot Camp (Which One To Choose?)

Cardio Vs Boot Camp (Which One To Choose?)

If you're trying to decide which is the best exercise for you between cardio and boot camp, but you're not sure which one will fit your needs, look no further because, in this ultimate guide, we'll be giving you all the information you'll need to decide. 

Cardio and boot camp have some similarities, but as a whole, they're pretty different forms of exercise.

Read on to find out much more, as we take you through our complete comparison, including which activity is best for fitness, strength, weight loss, cost, and beginners.

Principles of Cardio and Boot Camp

When you're trying to decide on a new exercise routine, it helps to know what each workout has to offer so you can identify whether it fits in with your personal goals. 

So before we move on to finding out which workout is best for you, let's take a look at the principles of each activity.

Principles of Cardio

Cardio (also known as cardiovascular or aerobic) exercise can be any form of activity that increases your heart rate. How hard you work to increase your heart rate is up to you, but there can be more significant benefits the harder you work.

People choose cardio for the potential health benefits and also because it's good for weight loss when combined with a healthy lifestyle.

It's common for cardio activity to be performed in addition to strength exercises. For example, incorporating treadmill work with weights in the gym.

Cardio activity can be performed anywhere, including at home, in the gym, or outdoors, and with or without equipment. 

Below are just some of the benefits you can expect if you regularly perform cardio exercises:

  • Weight Loss. Regular cardio activity is excellent for weight loss because it helps burn fat. You can also enhance the results by combining cardio work with a healthy diet. 
  • Stronger Heart. Over time, cardio exercise helps make the heart stronger, so it doesn't have to work so hard. A stronger heart can also help to reduce the risk of heart problems such as heart attack.
  • Increased Lung Capacity. Cardio can help increase your lung capacity, which helps with breathing during exercise.
  • Reduced Blood Pressure. Cardio activity can help lower blood pressure over time and decrease the resting heart rate.
  • Mental Health Benefits. It's been proven that cardio exercise can help with anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. The results you get from regular cardio activity can also help to increase confidence and make you feel happier.
  • Improved Sleep. Regular cardio exercise can help you sleep better, which holds many benefits for mental and physical health.

Types of Cardio Exercise

There are many kinds of cardio and it can apply to just about any repetitive activity that gets the body moving and increases the heart rate. Even some vigorous housework, such as scrubbing a floor, can be considered cardio activity. 

The list below shows some of the most popular types of cardio:

  • Running - outdoors or on a treadmill
  • Cycling - using a physical bike or stationary bike
  • Swimming - any stroke
  • Rowing Machine
  • Elliptical Trainer
  • Jump Rope
  • Dancing - various kinds
  • Cardio Workouts - (video or a local group)
  • High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

You can pick from one or many different kinds of cardio activity depending on what you enjoy doing.

By choosing the exercise you enjoy most, you're more likely to exercise regularly, whereas if you find an activity tedious, it will feel more like a chore.

If you're new to exercise or haven't done much activity for a while, cardio might feel a little challenging at first, but in time you will get fitter and can increase the intensity of your workouts for more significant benefits.

Principles of Boot Camp

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Boot camp originated from the style of exercise once used by the US army to train military staff. The term is now used to describe drill-style activities focusing on strength and aerobic training for a full-body workout.

Endurance is a big part of boot camp routines, and workouts are often intense and push the limits of a person's ability. HIIT routines are often used to increase the intensity of a boot camp workout.

Boot camp workouts are often performed in groups at gyms or outdoors using military-style assault courses. You can also do boot camp at home by following a video workout.

Below are some of the benefits you can expect when following a boot camp routine on a regular basis:

  • Weight Loss. Regular boot camp workouts help burn fat which can assist with weight loss if incorporated with a healthy lifestyle.
  • Improved Heart Health. Boot camp workouts incorporate aerobic exercise that can help strengthen the heart and reduce the risk of certain heart problems over time.
  • Increased Muscle Strength. Boot camp uses a combination of strength exercises to work the major muscle groups throughout the body. Increased muscle strength is good for posture, mobility, and flexibility.
  • Increased Lung Capacity. The aerobic element of boot camp helps to increase the capacity of the lungs and, over time, prevents breathlessness during exercise. 
  • Mental Health Benefits. The exercises performed in boot camp workouts can help improve mental health, including anxiety and depression.
  • Improved Sleep. It's proven that aerobic exercise can help to improve sleep.

Types of Bootcamp Exercise

The types of exercise used in a boot camp workout can vary depending on the class and the equipment used.

The list below shows just some of the exercises that are commonly used in a boot camp workout:

  • Calisthenic style exercises - including pull-ups, chin-ups, squats, lunges, push-ups, and sit-ups
  • Sprints
  • Burpees
  • Mountain Climbers
  • HIIT - including jumping jacks, running on the spot, high knees, and butt kicks
  • Assault Courses
  • Jump Rope

To keep a routine more interesting, you can choose the exercises you incorporate into your workout or you can pick a boot camp group that varies workouts each time.

What's the Difference Between Cardio and Boot Camp

Although there are some similarities between cardio and boot camp in that they both use aerobic exercise (which is excellent for heart health and weight loss), they're not the same.

The main difference between cardio and boot camp is that cardio focuses on aerobic activity, whereas boot camp combines a mix of strength training and aerobic exercise. 

The intensity of a cardio workout can be decreased or increased, depending on what you want to get from the exercise. In contrast, boot camp focuses on high-intensity and endurance exercise, which aims to provide a full-body workout.

Best for Muscle Strength

Winner: Boot Camp

When comparing cardio and boot camp, the exercise best for building muscle strength is boot camp.

Although some forms of cardio activity help improve muscle strength (depending on the resistance level), the potential is limited compared to boot camp.

Boot camp uses a mix of body weight and sometimes physical weights as resistance to build muscle strength and combines a range of movements to work on all major muscle groups. 

Many people who enjoy a cardio workout do strength training separately — the beauty of boot camp is it combines the two.

Best for Heart Health

Winner: Joint Winners

It’s difficult to decide which is better when it comes to heart health between cardio and boot camp because it’s dependent on the activity and the intensity of the workout.

If you perform cardio alone, this can be as good for your heart and lungs as boot camp if the aerobic exercise is performed on the same intensity level, especially if you incorporate HIIT. 

When you choose a less intense cardio activity such as swimming, using a more gentle stroke, the results will not be as good as those you would get with boot camp.

So for the best results, choose a more intense cardio activity or a boot camp routine that focuses on increasing heart rate in every workout. It ultimately comes down to which exercise you think you'd enjoy most.

Best for Weight Loss 

Winner: Boot Camp

Cardio and boot camp workouts are both recognized for their weight-loss potential, but how much weight you can lose will depend on a number of factors, including the intensity of the training and your diet.

To make a fair comparison, we'll look at the potential calorie burn that you can expect with each exercise.

Calories Burned Performing Cardio Activities

Because the kinds of exercise used in cardio vary, the table below shows a breakdown of the average calories burned for different activities for a 154lb person. These figures are based on information available from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Type of Cardio ExerciseAVG Calories Burned in 30 Minutes Moderate Cycling145Vigorous Cycling295Running (5mph)295Swimming (freestyle)255Dancing165Aerobics240

As you can see, the most calories you can expect to burn doing cardio work is around 295 per 30 minutes if you do vigorous running or cycling. 

Calories Burned Performing Boot Camp Activities

There's less data available for specific moves completed as part of a boot camp workout. However, it is suggested that you can burn around 300-500 calories per 30 minutes doing boot camp exercises. 

Evidence also suggests that HIIT-style exercise (often incorporated into a boot camp routine) can burn around 450 calories per 30 minutes.

This means that you can expect to burn more calories doing a boot camp workout than with cardio alone.

Best for Cost

Winner: Cardio

Providing you've already got appropriate clothes and footwear, cardio and boot camp activities can be performed without cost. For example, you can go for a local run or complete a boot camp workout from a YouTube video.

Because the range of exercises you can do in cardio is so vast, how far you go with buying equipment is entirely dependent on how far you want to take the sport.

Many people choose to use gym equipment such as stationary bikes, elliptical trainers, and rowing machines to get a good cardio workout with a variation. So depending on personal choice, it can help to have a gym membership to do cardio, but it isn't essential.

In comparison, those who do boot camp generally opt for classes in a local gym or a specialist boot camp gym or fitness centre. Having an instructor and working as a group helps get the best from a boot camp workout because it makes you push harder, which you might not do at home.

Because you can get more from a boot camp class and there are more options for free cardio activities, we have deemed cardio a lower-cost activity.

​​Best for Beginners

Winner: Cardio

Cardio activity is suitable for beginners and almost any ability. This is because cardio can be any activity that increases heart rate, from light exercise to something more vigorous — you can get started at any level.

In comparison, boot camp is a more demanding workout focusing on endurance and might not be appropriate for everyone, especially those with an existing health condition.

Although boot camp can be suitable for beginners if you're physically unfit or new to exercise, you might want to build your fitness levels up before participating in anything too intense. 

Some boot camp classes are more demanding than others, so if you're new, you might want to speak to the instructor to ensure it's the right class for you.

If you're thinking of taking on a new exercise routine and you have a health condition, it's always a good idea to consult your doctor or health professional before you start. 


Having compared each category, here's a summary of the winners:

  • Best for Heart Health: Joint Winners
  • Best for Strength: Boot Camp
  • Best for Weight Loss: Boot Camp
  • Best for Cost: Cardio
  • Best for Beginners: Cardio

Overall, cardio and boot camp come out as joint winners; both are excellent for helping with weight loss and are proven to improve heart health and overall fitness.

Boot camp is a better option if you're looking to add strength training into your exercise routine. It also burns more calories and has a greater potential for fat-burning than cardio alone.

In contrast, cardio is a better choice for beginners, and it's a low-cost option because many activities can be done for free.

Ultimately, deciding which is the best workout for you will depend on your goals and certain factors, such as your ability and the kinds of exercise you enjoy most.

We hope this article has given you the information you need to choose the best option for you.