Cardio vs. Strength Training: Which One Is The Top Choice For Weight Loss? The image shows two women working out. One lifting weights and another one running.

Cardio vs. Strength Training: Which One Is The Top Choice For Weight Loss?

December 21. 2023

Most people who decide to start working out to lose weight find themselves in the same predicament: cardio vs. strength training for fat loss. Which one will give you faster results?

I know how many questions pop up when you embark on a weight loss journey. Inquiries such as what is the best diet plan? Do I eat before or after the workout routine? And should I lose weight before building muscle? These are all valid questions to which you must find the answer to efficiently start losing weight. Today, I will focus on cardio vs. strength training for weight loss. Stick with me if you are ready to change your life and get your dream body. Let’s find out which exercise takes you one step closer to your weight-loss goals.

What is cardio?

Are you a rookie in the workout world and have never been to a gym before? No problem; I’ll start with the basics. Cardio, also called aerobic exercise, is any physical activity that increases your heart rate. You probably link cardio with exercises that make you sweat; some good cardiovascular exercises include:

  • cycling classes
  • swimming
  • running
  • jumping jacks
  • jumping the rope
  • high knees
  • dancing
  • sports such as basketball, soccer, or tennis

Almost anyone can engage in cardio work regardless of age and physical condition. You will find plenty of exercises to choose from, and most of them are beginner-friendly. As you gain more cardio capacity, you can increase the intensity of your workout routine.

Cardio is one of the best exercises and has countless health benefits, such as better sleep, enhanced lung capacity, increased bone density, improved sex life, and reduced risk factors for many medical conditions. And what about weight loss? Does sweating help lose weight? Aerobic exercise is one of the best workouts for burning fat and calories, helping you lose weight efficiently.

Understanding strength training

Strength training is also regarded as resistance training and weight lifting. Resistance training is any type of exercise that uses weights (or other types of resistance) to build strength in your muscles. These are some of the best weight training exercises:

  • squats
  • weightlifting
  • deadlift
  • plank
  • glute bridge
  • push-ups

All those exercises cause your muscles to contract against an external resistance. That outside resistance can be dumbbells, resistance bands, gym weight machines, or your own body. If you are a beginner, you must start with about 30-60 minutes of strength workouts 3-4 times a week.

Weight training’s primary health benefits include joint strength and flexibility, muscle growth, increased metabolism, blood sugar control, bone strength, and weight management. Resistance training is perfect if you are looking to improve your body composition. These workouts help you shape and tone your body, gaining muscle mass at the same time you ditch fat.

Top 5 benefits of cardio

Improves heart health

Have you ever decided to go for a daily jog or bike ride? If you aren’t used to physical activity, you may find yourself out of breath after a few minutes. As the days went by, on the sixth or seventh day, you started holding on better, and the “omg, make it stop” thoughts were almost gone. That happens because you are training and improving your cardiovascular health, and your heart pumps oxygen more efficiently.

If you are trying to lose weight to battle obesity, then you know this condition can compromise your heart health. At my weight loss clinic in Chicago, we prioritize overall health; cardio will help you lose weight and regain control of your cardiovascular health, making it an excellent addition to your weight management plan.

Lowers blood pressure

Frequent physical activity helps control blood sugar levels. While cardio won’t solve a blood glucose condition, it can significantly help the treatment. Suppose you are taking Ozempic for weight loss and diabetes. In that case, aerobic exercise will increase Ozempic’s weight loss effect and aid in lowering high blood sugar levels caused by type 2 diabetes.

Helps regulate appetite

Snaking is one of the most dreadful obstacles for those trying to achieve weight loss. Because who doesn’t snack? Snacks always come creeping in between meals, at work, or while watching a Netflix show. Snaking is a dangerous game; it quickly increases our daily calorie intake and can reduce hunger at meal times. A study showed that people who engage in high-intensity cardio workouts eat 11% less in the next 24 hours. Aerobic exercises increase the secretions of the hunger-suppressing hormone, helping you regulate your appetite. Are you on appetite suppressants such as Phentermine for weight loss? Including a cardio workout in your weekly routine can make those extra pounds disappear faster.

Better sleep

A power-up cardio workout indeed increases your energy levels. But at the same time, aerobic exercise promotes better sleep quality. A good night’s sleep is crucial for waking up rejuvenated and full of energy, but do you know how important is sleep for muscle growth and fat loss? Poor sleep leads to unhealthy food choices, less energy to work out, and decreased growth hormone production (in charge of building muscle mass).

Promotes significant fat loss

Cardio is the top type of exercise to lose fat. While doing cardio, you are busting calories, which essentially is burning fat. To lose weight, you must burn more calories than the ones you eat during the day – that’s called a calorie deficit. Depending on your goals, you can try one of these cardio methods:

  • LISS: Low-intensity steady-state cardio works excellent for beginners and those with large weight loss goals, helping them lose stubborn fat.
  • HIIT: High-intensity interval training is ideal for those already closer to their dream weight, helping them lose fat efficiently while maintaining muscle mass.

Top 5 benefits of strength training

Raises confidence and reduces stress

You might don’t like weight training and have to drag your feet to the gym. But trust me, the advantages to your mental health will make it worth it. Strength training makes your brain release endorphins- the “feel good” hormones – reducing stress and anxiety.

Being able to lift weight that was previously out of your range will boost your self-confidence. You may enter the gym in a bad mood, but you’ll leave it feeling uplifted, relaxed, and full of confidence.

Improves sleep quality

Like most exercises, strength training promotes better sleep quality, leading to overall health, lifestyle improvement, and the many benefits I mentioned above.

Increased bone health

As we age, our bones start losing density, potentially leading to fractures or bone-elated conditions. Unfortunately, women are more prone to those conditions, such as osteoporosis. After menstruation, a woman’s body starts to release less estrogen, a hormone essential for bone health. Bone health is also an issue for those sitting behind a desk for several hours. Thankfully, weight-bearing exercises promote better bone health, helping you enjoy a long, healthy life.

Builds muscle

The leading purpose of strength training is to build muscle mass. Do you fancy having a toned body to rock next summer? Then, starting weight lighting is the way to achieve that. You must start slowly, working out with little weight and gradually increasing weight and repetitions. You don’t have to sign up for a gym; if you prefer, you can purchase some equipment and work out at home. However, I advise you to get a personalized training plan to obtain optimal results.

Did you start weight training and find yourself losing inches but not weight? As I explained in another article, that’s a normal stage of a body recomposition weight-loss process.

Boosts metabolism (and fat loss)

Strength training boosts your metabolism and resting metabolic rate (RMR), which basically makes your body burn calories even while you are not engaging in physical activity.

Building muscle increases your RMR; muscle tissue is more metabolically efficient than fat mass, burning more calories at rest. As a plus, after a weight training session, you increase your metabolic rate by 72% for several hours, meaning your body will burn calories long after you finish your workout.

Choosing cardio vs. strength training for weight loss

Let’s break the debate: cardio vs. strength training. Which one should you choose if your goal is to lose weight? Due to the nature of cardio, aerobic exercises can help you burn fat and calories at an incredible speed. If you are overweight or obese and looking for alternatives to weight loss surgery, cardiovascular exercise is what you need. However, you shouldn’t discard strength training just yet.

Strength training is also a powerful weight loss tool. While cardio is necessary, weight training is its perfect complement. The dispute was really never about cardio vs. strength training but rather how both disciplines can lead you straight to your ideal body composition.

Aim for a mix of cardio and strength training each week if your goal is to lose weight while sculpting your body. Remember that you must pair your workout efforts with a proper meal plan tailored to your unique needs to see significant results.

Final thoughts

Are you starting to work out to change your body? Exercise is one of the best ways to lose weight fast. But when considering cardio vs. strength training, which one is best? Cardio exercises like running, cycling, and jumping jacks will help you burn that extra, undesired fat. Streng training will build muscle tissue, increasing your metabolism and making your body burn more calories at rest. So aim for a mix of both each week, and you’ll quickly move toward your goal. Do you need a personalized diet plan to boost your exercise efforts? Schedule a call with me; my team will craft the ideal diet for your needs and goals.

Nurse Walton


Nurse Walton

Born and raised in Chicago, IL, Chanay received her Practical Nurse licensure and went to work in clinical specialties such as Home Health, Assisted Living, Long-Term Care and Dialysis Centers. Through this work, she realized the importance of diet, nutrition and weight loss among her patients. This led her to open A Better Weigh, Inc. Medical Weight Loss Center in 2009.

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