It’s a common belief that in order to lose weight, you should stick to cardio, and stay away from weights. Although cardio does burn more calories a minute, weight training can actually be more effective in other ways. 

It’s easy to think that if you want to lose weight, hitting the treadmill or spinning bike is your only option – that cardio burns fat and that weight training only builds muscle. Although that is true to some extent, it’s not quite that simple.

Cardio vs Weights for Weight Loss

What Are The Studies Saying?

Many studies have been carried out in order to determine which type of training that actually is the most efficient for weight loss: cardio or weights. A couple of years ago Duke University decided once and for all, to find out which one of the two that is more beneficial for weight loss.

The study tracked 119 overweight volunteers for eight months, while they performed resistance training and aerobic exercises: weights and cardio training.

The study found that the cardio group did substantially better when it came to weight loss – they lost about four pounds, while team resistance gained about two pounds (of lean mass), despite exercising 47 more minutes each week. The muscle mass they gained, however, turned out to not be leading to any meaningful fat loss.

According to the study co-author, Cris Slentz, assistant professor of medicine at Duke University, it’s simple math: “Minute by minute, cardio burns more calories, so it works best for reducing fat mass and body mass.

“Resistance training is important for maintaining lean body mass, strength and function,” he said.

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According to a study by Wake Forest University from last year, weight training is the way to go for older adults (over 60). The study found that combining weight training with a low-calorie diet preserves important lean muscle mass, that you don’t necessarily get through cardio training.

Weights Cardio Weight Loss
Cross Country Running

The Bottom Line

A cardio workout will indeed burn more calories than a weightlifting session. However, weight training will help your metabolism to stay elevated for longer after a workout, and is also better for muscle building. And since muscle tissue burns more calories than body fat, muscle mass is a good tool to have handy.

Consequently, the conclusion here is that the best thing for fitness gain and weight loss is to combine both cardio and weight training. An American Council on Exercise study on exercise sequencing, found that your heart rate is substantially higher (by 12 beats a minute) when you’re cardio training after having pumped iron first. This equals more calories burned!

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By Elsa Anderling

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