When you enter the gym, it can feel like you need to choose a team: Team Treadmill or Team Deadlifts.
Team Treadmill only stroll over to the weight room for space to cool down, and Team Deadlift only do a jog to warm up.
But I’m here to tell you – you don’t have to choose, and in fact – you shouldn’t!
Cardio and strength training both have a place in your regimen. Doing one and not the other misses out on major benefits that are unique to each.
Below, I’ll be detailing all of your options so you can make an informed routine that helps you get fit, shed pounds, and reach your goals in an exciting and effective way.
What is Cardio?
1. Why Cardio Is Best for Weight Loss
Cardio training, also known as aerobic exercise, is any rhythmic activity that raises your heart rate for at least ten minutes or more.
The stronger your cardiovascular system is, the more efficient your body will become at providing oxygen to your muscles. This enables your cells to burn more fat during exertion and while at rest.
Cardio workouts burn more calories than other training options, meaning you’ll be able to achieve a diet deficit more easily.
To begin using cardio for weight loss, find out your ideal exertion level by using a heart rate chart. Usually, it’s around 70 percent of your maximum exertion.
2. Benefits of Cardio
From a brisk walk outside to playing your weekly sport, cardio can be done almost anywhere.
There are many options for cardio exercise, making it easy to adjust to your specific health and fitness needs.
Moderate cardio is less intense on the joints and can more easily be done for longer periods of time. High exertion cardio can build muscle, endurance, and stamina. (1)
Regardless of which you do, cardio reduces high-blood pressure, cholesterol, stress, risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular problems like blocked arteries. Cardio can also increase the feel-good chemicals in your brain that will put you in a better mood and help you respond more efficiently to stress.
Given the same amount of time and effort, the calories burned during cardio exceed the number burned during strength training.
3. Best Cardio Exercises for Weight Loss
What is Strength Training?
1. Why Strength Training Can Help with Weight Loss
Cardio may build some muscle in the beginning, but many routines focus on the lower body.
Strength training gives every part of your body attention – building muscle and power in a way cardio never could.
Strength training can include lifting weights to workouts that use your own body weight and gravity against you.
They can be incorporated into your exercise routine to build muscle mass and burn fat. It requires good form, which improves your posture in and out of the gym. It also increases endurance, builds stamina, and reduces chance of injury.
Muscles burn more calories than other types of tissues – even while at rest. Therefore, weight lifting for weight loss is a great investment in your health for the long-term.
2. Benefits of Strength Training
A well-designed strength and weight training program increases your Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption or EPOC.
In contrast, your body stops burning calories at an elevated rate soon after a consistent cardio exercise ends. (2)
Lean muscle mass and bone density naturally decrease with age. However, weight training can help preserve and increase your muscle mass. Strength training also supports bone density, balance, and strong connective tissues.
There are also hundreds of ways to mix up your routine, keeping it interesting as well as challenging for your body.
Strength and weight training can be combined, rotated, and you can use different equipment to do similar things. With cardio, increasing your speed is often the only way to keep it challenging.
3. Best Strength and Lifting Exercises for Weight Loss
Another Option: HiIT
1. What is High intensity interval training?
High intensity interval training (or HIIT), is a type of cardio that alternates between periods of intense exercise, and less-intense recovery exercise. Using HIIT for weight loss can be an efficient way of jumpstarting your metabolism.
The rapid ramp-up and brief breaks causes your body to enter a different metabolic pattern that can result your body burning calories at a higher rate for up to two or even three days later. Because the high-exertion periods require 80-95% of your maximum effort, it is not recommended to do this type of exercise daily.
HIIT reduces insulin resistance, improves cardiovascular health, and trains your body for endurance and recovery better than consistent-rate cardio. If you’re low on time, HIIT is the best way to burn calories quickly.
Here's a more in-depth guide on HIIT.
2. Best HIIT Exercises for Weight Loss
How Much Exercise Do You Need to Lose Weight?
How much exercise you need to lose weight depends primarily on your diet, activity levels, current weight, and age.
To know how much cardio to lose weight, you need to exercise enough so that the total calories you burn are less than what you consume.
You can use cardio to reach the optimal level of exertion that burns fat during your exercise.
You can also focus on building muscle, so your metabolism stays elevated and working long after your workout is complete.
If you closely manage what you eat, you may be able to do less exercise and still reach your health and fitness goals.
The Role of Diet
Diets play an important role in weight loss.
By shifting your meals to include more fiber and protein, you’ll encourage a healthy GI tract, muscle growth, and you’ll stay full for longer.
No matter how many hours you spend in the gym, if your diet has the wrong balance of macronutrients, you will have a very difficult time reaching your desired physique.
Choose nutrient-dense foods like vegetables and whole grains to more easily maintain your caloric deficit and lose body fat.
Staying hydrated also plays an important role in keeping your metabolism working, and can act as a natural appetite suppressant.
Here are 20 foods to add in your diet so you can start losing weight.
How Do They Work Together?
The key to getting the most out of cardio and strength training is to use the two types of exercise together because the result is an overall increase in fitness.
When your muscles get stronger, your body can work harder. That means you can get the most out of your cardio. The more efficient your cardio, the more muscle you are going to be able to build.
Building your muscles will also help protect your body from injury during high-intensity cardio sessions. It can help give you a better sense of balance and strengthen your bones against fractures.
Combining cardio and strength training can also help you make more positive changes in your body. While aerobic exercise is excellent for weight loss, adding strength training will help you lengthen and shape your muscles.
Cardio vs Strength Training: The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, your body can benefit from cardio training, strength training, and HIIT in different ways.
Stop dreading an hour on the treadmill or your next set of boring bicep curls. Each exercise style has its unique benefits, and you’ll need a combination of them all to shed pounds, and achieve a fit and toned body.
Mix up your exercise routine to gain the maximum benefits of each style, while also keeping your routine interesting and challenging.
1. Health Essentials, Cleveland Clinic, From Head to Toe: The Benefits of a Cardio Workout (Infographic), retrieved from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/head-toe-benefits-cardio-workout-infographic/
2. Chris Iliades, MD Medically Reviewed by Samuel Mackenzie, MD, PhD, 7 Ways Strength Training Boosts Your Health and Fitness, retrieved from https://www.everydayhealth.com/fitness/add-strength-training-to-your-workout.aspx
3. Mark D. SchuenkeRichard P. Mikat, Jeffrey M. McBride, Effect of an acute period of resistance exercise on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption: implications for body mass management, retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00421-001-0568-y?LI=true