Cardio vs weight training: Which is better? Which helps you get in shape faster? What's better for weight loss?
This is a common question among those who are looking to get fit. If you don't have time for a long workout, you might be wondering which type of exercise is most effective.
Cardio exercises, such as running and swimming, are great for getting your heart rate up and increasing your cardio-respiratory endurance. Weight training is effective for increasing muscle size, strength, and power.
Both are great, but which is better?
In this article, we'll look at cardio vs weight training and discuss which will help you reach your fitness goals faster.
Let's get to it!
What's the Difference: Cardio Vs Weight Training
When discussing cardio vs weight training, the first thing to get clear on is the difference between the two. Both are great exercises and can help you get in shape, but the effect they have on the body can be quite different.
Cardio exercises are activities that rely heavily on the aerobic energy system. Examples include running, swimming, biking, and even dancing. These exercises focus mainly on increasing cardio-respiratory endurance and burning calories.
Weight training is a type of exercise that uses weights or resistance bands to build strength, power, and size in your muscles. Weight training is often used as part of a strength and conditioning program and can also be used to improve endurance.
Benefits of Cardio
Cardio exercise has a lot of benefits for our bodies. In fact, the Mayo Clinic recommends getting 150 minutes of cardio exercise a week.
Here are some of the reasons cardio is so great for your health:
One of the top benefits of cardio exercise is how it affects your heart health. It's been accepted for years that regular cardio exercise can help reduce your risk of stroke, heart disease, and other cardiovascular conditions.
Even recent research backs this up. A study done in 2018 noted that "frequent exercise is robustly associated with a decrease in cardiovascular mortality as well as the risk of developing cardiovascular disease."
As we age, cardio exercise becomes even more important. A study done in 2010 noted a dramatic increase in coronary heart disease once we hit 40.
Cardio exercise not only helps you get fit, but it can also help keep you healthy overall.
Another great benefit of cardio exercise is improved endurance. Cardio workouts can help build stamina and help you become stronger and more resilient.
By increasing your ability to sustain intense physical activity for longer periods of time, you can perform better in sports or other activities that require prolonged effort.
You'll also increase your lung capacity and increase your overall fitness level. This makes it a great choice for trying to get fit and in shape.
Burn more calories per workout
The next benefit of cardio exercise is that it's great for burning calories. You can burn more calories per workout when you do cardio exercises than if you were lifting weights.
An article from Harvard Health Publishing listed the number of calories burned at three different weights for various exercises. Across the board, cardio burned more calories than general weight lifting.
This makes cardio a great choice if your goal is to lose weight or get leaner. Your body will be working harder and burning more calories in the process.
Faster weight loss
Finally, cardio exercises can lead to faster weight loss results. Because cardio is such an effective way to burn calories, you'll be able to see quicker results than if you were only lifting weights.
A study done on the effects of resistance training vs aerobic training on weight loss showed that doing just cardio was more effective for weight loss than doing just weight training.
Cardio workouts also increase your metabolism, meaning that you'll continue burning calories even after you're done exercising.
Benefits of Weight Training
Now that we've discussed the benefits of cardio, it's only fair to talk about how weight training can help you too.
Weight lifting is an important part of any fitness routine that often doesn't get as much credit as it deserves. Here are some of the benefits it can provide:
Build muscle and strength
One of the main benefits of weight training is increased muscle mass. By lifting weights, your body is forced to build muscle in order to become stronger.
This can help you look toned and fit, even if you're not trying to get super ripped. It also increases your overall strength and endurance, making it easier for you to do other activities that require physical exertion.
Current research backs up the benefits of weight training for muscle mass and strength. A study done in 2012 noted that "If increasing muscle mass and strength is the goal, a program including Resistance Training is required."
Boost your metabolism
Another important benefit of weight training is that it boosts your metabolism. Weight lifting increases your body's ability to burn calories, even when you're not actively working out.
This means that your body will burn more fat and lose weight even after your workout is done. A study done in 2012 noted that "Ten weeks of resistance training may increase lean weight by 1.4 kg, increase resting metabolic rate by 7%, and reduce fat weight by 1.8 kg."
The more muscle mass your body has, the higher your metabolic rate will be overall. So in the long run, weightlifting boosts your weight loss as well.
Weightlifting can also help you prevent injuries. When done properly, weight training increases your flexibility and balance. This reduces the likelihood of injury when performing other physical activities or sports.
O.S.R. Physical Therapy notes that strength training "is one of the best ways to prevent injuries. It helps increase your range of motion as well as reduce fatigue."
They also mention that lifting weights is a good option for strength training. "It improves muscle function, increases performance and efficiency, and helps the body handle stress."
Build bone density
Another benefit of weight training that is especially important as we age is building bone density. As we age, our bones naturally become weaker and more prone to injury.
However, weight training can help build and maintain bone density. A study done in 2018 goes so far as to say that resistance exercise, "either alone or in combination with other interventions, may be the most optimal strategy to improve the muscle and bone mass in postmenopausal women, middle-aged men, or even the older population."
Cardio vs Weight Training: Which is Better for Your Overall Health?
Now that we've gone over the benefits of cardio vs weight training, you might still be wondering which is better. They both have significant benefits, so which should you focus on?
The answer is that it depends on your goals. If your primary goal is for better overall health, then cardio might win out by a small margin.
Because it helps increase your cardiovascular health and maintain a healthy weight, cardio tends to be better for overall health. However, weight training shouldn't be completely ignored either.
If cardio is your main focus, you will need to look for activities that help deliver some of the same benefits that weight training does. Maintaining strength and increasing bone density are important parts of overall health, and cardio alone won't be enough to do that.
If at all possible, find a way to make sure you're getting some sort of weight training in to supplement your cardio routine.
Cardio vs Weight Training: Which is Better for Weight Loss?
Another common topic that comes up around cardio vs weight training is weight loss. If your goal is to burn more fat and maintain a healthy weight, which is better?
Again, cardio wins by a small margin. By keeping your heart rate up and burning calories, cardio helps you burn fat more efficiently than weight lifting will.
However, don't discount weight training completely. While cardio can help you lose weight faster in the short term, weightlifting provides benefits that cardio doesn't.
Building muscle mass and increasing metabolic rate can help you maintain your weight loss goals in the long term. Cardio and weight lifting are both beneficial for weight loss, but cardio usually gets better results in the short term.
So if your goal is to lose weight quickly, cardio should be your focus. But make sure to add some weightlifting into your routine as well to help maintain your weight loss.
Cardio Vs Weight Training: Why You Should Do Both
It's no surprise at this point that when it comes to the debate of cardio vs weight training the answer is of course both. Both have amazing benefits for the body in terms of health and weight loss.
Rather than choosing one over the other, the most effective exercise routine is going to combine the two. Here are some benefits of making sure you include both cardio and weight training in your workouts:
Lose fat and gain muscle
Cardio is great for burning fat, while weight training helps you build muscle. Combining cardio and weight training gives you the benefit of both.
When you combine cardio and weight training into one workout, you can maximize your calorie burn in a shorter amount of time. Which will help increase your weight loss even more.
Improved heart health
Another benefit of doing both cardio and weight training is improved heart health. Cardio helps your cardio-respiratory system and weight training can help increase muscle mass, which can actually reduce stress on the heart.
A study done in 2019 showed that a combination of cardio and weight training increased cardiorespiratory fitness in only 8 weeks. It was also found to be more effective than just cardio or weight training alone.
Better mental health
Finally, cardio and weight training can both help improve your mental health. Exercise releases endorphins which are known to give you a sense of happiness and improved mood.
And weight training has an added benefit in that it increases serotonin levels, which is a chemical that helps regulate sleep and mood. A study in 2017 found that resistance training significantly improved anxiety symptoms for the participants.
So when it comes down to cardio vs weight training, the best choice is both. Combining cardio and weight training into an exercise routine can help you stay healthy and reach your fitness goals in a shorter time frame.
FAQs About Cardio Vs Weight Training
If you're still on the fence about cardio vs weight training and which is better, here are some common questions that come up.
Can I lose weight by lifting weights only?
Yes, you can lose weight by lifting weights only. Weight training has been shown to help build muscle and increase metabolic rate which in turn helps with weight loss.
However, cardio is usually more effective for losing weight quickly than just lifting weights alone. So if your goal is to lose weight fast, cardio should be included.
Is cardio or weights better for belly fat?
Both cardio and weight training are beneficial for reducing belly fat. However, cardio is usually more effective in the short term.
Is 20 minutes of cardio enough after lifting weights?
Yes, 20 minutes of cardio after lifting weights is enough to get the benefits of cardio. Even just 10-15 minutes of cardio can be beneficial for improving cardio-respiratory health.
How much cardio vs weights per week?
The amount of cardio vs weights you should do per week depends on your goals. Generally, if your goal is weight loss, then cardio should be your focus and you can include 2-3 days of cardio workouts per week.
And for weight training, 1-2 days a week should be enough. However, if building muscle is the goal then 3-4 days of weight training is preferred.
Ultimately, the best way to get the most out of cardio and weight training is to combine them together in one exercise routine. That way you can maximize your calorie burn while improving both cardio health and muscle mass.
Should I train cardio or weights first?
When it comes to cardio vs weight training, the order in which you do them depends on what you're hoping to get out of your workout. Whichever exercise you do first is probably going to get your better effort.
If cardio is a higher priority, do that one first. If weight training is a higher priority, do that one first. If you're just focused on better health and weight loss, it really doesn't matter.
Just make sure that you aren't too fatigued when you go to lift weights. You want to make sure you can lift and control the weights safely to prevent injury.
Final Thoughts on Cardio Vs Weight Training
I hope this article was helpful in clearing up any confusion about cardio vs weight training. As you can see, both cardio and weight training have their own unique benefits.
Ultimately, the best option is to combine them into one exercise routine so that you can get the most out of your workout. And by doing cardio and weights together, you’ll be able to get fit fast as well as maintain your overall health for a long time to come.
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