In a US study released this year, researchers have once again taken on the age-old question. Cardio vs. weights: which one’s better? This time, though, they wanted to know how these two forms of exercise affect markers of heart disease, one of which being body weight.
You’re on a weight loss journey yourself, and you’re wondering: should you focus on cardio while you’re in the gym? Or should you stick to the weights for the best results?
We’ve done the research for you, and the results are in. The answer? It depends.
Want to know how you can optimize your weight loss results by incorporating both cardio and weightlifting into your routine? Then check out this guide for everything you need to know.
The Benefits of Cardio vs. Weights
For adults between the ages of 18 and 64 years, Australia’s Department of Health recommends 150 to 300 minutes of physical activity per week. Though they suggest that weight training should be included in your fitness routine twice weekly, the DOH doesn’t weigh-in on the cardio vs. weights conversation.
Never fear, though! Because today we’re bringing you the science behind which is better: strength training or aerobic exercise?
Cardio Pros and Cons
Though weight loss is much more than calories in, calories out, there’s no denying that calorie-burning matters for a slim waist. That’s why so many women turn to cardio.
When you go for a cycling session or run on your favourite trail, you’re burning nearly twice the amount of calories as while lifting weights. Frequent aerobic training has been shown to reduce Body Mass Index (BMI).
At the same time, you’re improving your cardiovascular fitness. Seeing as cardiovascular fitness is associated with multiple markers of health, you’re doing a favor for more than your waistline alone.
Here’s the thing about cardio, though: it’s not going to improve your lower body strength. Some studies suggest that aerobic exercise may increase strength in the upper body for some people. If you’re looking to build muscle in your lower body, you’re better off sticking with resistance training.
Weightlifting Pros and Cons
So, you may be thinking: but I’m a lady! Ladies don’t lift weights! Well, think again because women benefit from weightlifting, too.
Weights don’t just help you build muscle, they also help reduce waist size. What’s more, you can actually target areas where you want to build muscle and tone. For example, weighted squats are an excellent way to slim your thighs while building your booty.
Even better, weight lifting is empowering! When you weight train, you’re learning to persevere and work hard in the face of adversity.
Like most exercises, though, lifting weights can have some downsides. For example, soreness and, in more extreme cases, muscle fractures can occur from using weights. As long as you take the proper rest between workout sessions and eat a protein-dense meal post-lifting, you shouldn’t experience these more severe side effects.
Lose Weight Faster with Cardio Plus Weightlifting
These days, compound workouts are all the rage. Why? Because these super-efficient routines work multiple muscle groups at once, utilizing both cardio and weightlifting for the ultimate full-body workout.
That’s right, you can combine all your favorite benefits of resistance and cardio training alone with one compound workout. Benefits like increasing your lean body mass, boosting cardiorespiratory fitness, and upping your strength in both your upper and lower body.
Perhaps best of all are the additional benefits cardio plus weightlifting has on your health. In the 2019 US study we mentioned above, 8 weeks of combined aerobic and resistance training led to improvements in diastolic blood pressure, and nearly all other markers of cardiovascular disease measured.
Bottom line: the cardio vs. weights discussion is moot. Both of these forms of exercise are beneficial for your weight loss journey and your overall health.
Wondering what you can do for the best compound workout for weight loss? High-interval training is the exercise routine you’ve been searching for.
The Case for High-Intensity Interval Training
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) combines the best aspects of weightlifting and aerobic exercise.
This form of training uses body resistance with quick, repetitive motions completed over 30 to 45 seconds. The point is to increase your heart rate while targeting certain muscle groups for strength. Clearly, this method works since one HIIT session boosts your metabolism for up to 72 hours after your workout.
The best part? HIIT workouts are only 10 to 30 minutes in length. That means you can stay on track with your weight loss plan without having to miss out on time with your family or friends. How’s that for a win-win?
Why Nutrition is Just as Important as Exercise for Weight Loss
The Australian DOH doesn’t recommend combination workouts alone for weight loss. That’s because a nutritiously-dense diet is just as vital for reducing your waste.
Here’s the thing: working out can do wonders for your body. Yet those results won’t stick around for long if you aren’t also paying attention to what you put into your body. For example, a 2014 study found that weight loss participants who used a combination of diet and exercise saw significantly higher reductions in weight after 12 months than those who used training alone.
Just as a combination of resistance and aerobic training are best, you’ll see better results with a combination of proper diet and frequent exercise.
A Recipe for Weight Loss Success
Searching for the end-all, be-all source for weight loss advice for women? Healthy Living Women is here to advise you on way more than the cardio vs. weights dilemma alone. Subscribe to our Fitness blog to discover more fitness and health education to get in your best shape ever!