As a Fitness Coach for over a decade one of the most common reasons people turn up at my gym to train with me is to lose weight. With obesity becoming an ever increasingly and common problem, you want to be sure your exercise is meeting your objective. Exercise for weight loss is an area in which I specialise in and it’s also an area where there’s much confusion.
It leads me to a question I get asked often:
What is the best exercise for weight loss, Cardio or Weights?
Before I answer the question let me give you an understanding of each type of exercise.
Cardio: often known as Aerobic Exercise it is defined as any exercise that increases the need for oxygen. In other words, any activity that makes you puff. Some of the more common examples are walking, jogging, swimming even dancing.
Weights: often known as Strength Training, it is a type of physical movement where resistance is used with muscle contraction to induce an increase in strength and size of skeletal muscles. Examples of this are body building, weight lifting, gymnastics and even shot put and javelin throwing.
The answer to the question often surprises, but Weights will indeed contribute to more weight loss than Cardio.
Generally speaking any activity that elevates your heart rate and increases your demand for oxygen is Cardio. Traditional steady-state cardio (think running a 5K, using the elliptical machine, or doing step aerobics) can be beneficial in terms of fat loss -- at least for a while. But your body will adapt to any stress placed on it. Over time, the work required to, say, run a 5K will decrease as your fitness improves. Diminishing returns kicks in. What once took 20 minutes to burn X number of calories will take 30 minutes, and then 40 minutes and so on.
With weights, on the other hand, you can stave off this effect by varying your exercises to keep your body guessing. You can change things up by adding resistance, decreasing rest time, increasing the number of reps you do or changing the order of your exercises. All of these things prevent your body from hitting a plateau, boosting your ability to burn fat.
Lifting weights also increases your lean muscle mass, which further increases metabolism at rest. That means you’ll be burning more calories throughout the day. You can lose weight whilst you’re asleep even.
When a new client turns up to me and wants to lose weight I give them a prescription of Weights and Cardio, with an emphasis on the Weights and I recommend you do the same.