Best Exercise for Weight Loss: Cardio vs. Strength Training

March 3, 2014

You walk into any gym and see free weights alongside cardio equipment. You may be scratching your head, wondering which training method???cardio or strength???will help you reach your weight loss goals faster. Many factors determine which wins the weight loss battle, and comparing the two training methods will help you determine the best fitness plan for your needs.

Cardiovascular Training: Cardio, or aerobic training, includes activities that get your heart rate up like swimming, biking, walking, and running. During these activities, you’re primarily using the large muscle groups in your legs, hips, and arms. You’ll notice your breathing becomes deeper, meaning your heart is working harder to give your muscles oxygen to sustain the activity. During cardiovascular exercise, you burn calories and your body uses fat and carbohydrates as its main energy sources. As your fitness level improves, you will be able to exercise for a longer period of time. Studies show regular aerobic exercise can help reduce your risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol levels, and help you maintain weight loss.

Strength Training: Using resistance bands, free weights, body weight, or weight machines is an effective way to boost metabolism and build strength and muscle mass. Strength training often hides in the shadows of cardiovascular exercise, but building muscle mass makes everyday activities easier like carrying groceries or picking up your child. Strength training is anaerobic exercise, meaning you sustain the exercise for a shorter period of time and your body primarily relies on carbohydrates for energy. Although you won’t feel your heart pumping as quickly, you burn calories and fat hours after your strength training session is complete.

The Weight Loss Verdict: Reap the weight loss benefits of both! A study published in the journal Obesity found neither strength nor cardio training has a significant edge when it comes to weight loss. Both training types helped obese or overweight women lose weight. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a combination of strength and aerobic exercise to gain long-term health benefits. If you’re beginner exerciser, make sure you consult your physician before hitting the gym. Remember, weight loss starts in the kitchen, so don’t leave your diet behind when you start a fitness program!

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