A lot of people think that doing aerobic (cardio) exercises in combination with cutting back the calories is the best way to lose weight, while others think it’s strength training that is better for weight loss.
If you compare cardio or strength training together when exercising for an hour at the same intensity, cardio will win in terms of the number of calories your burning up. However, after you’ve finished your cardio session, your metabolism rate quickly drops down towards normal levels. This is where the benefits of resistance training for weight loss can come in, as your metabolic rate can stay higher for hours after your workout.
Resistance training can also help to reduce muscle loss. In your 30’s you start to lose muscle mass and function! This loss is age-related and is known as sarcopenia, and causes your metabolic rate (the calories you burn to stay alive and do everyday tasks) to decrease, meaning you need less calories. Unfortunately, if you still eat the same amount of calories, but with a decreased metabolism, some those calories are no longer needed and will be stored as fat in the body (think middle age spread). So doing the right type of resistance training can help you maintain or slow down your loss of muscle. This in turn means you can keep your metabolic rate higher and burn off more calories.
So which should you do, cardio or strength training?
A number of studies have found that the best results for weight loss come from combining cardio and strength training. One study showed that people who did six days a week of cardio training, did less well than those who did three days each of cardio and strength training. Those who combined both had the best results for losing fat and increasing muscle mass.
So, try and mix both cardio and resistance training to help maximise your weight loss.
– J. Donnelly et al. Appropriate physical activity intervention strategies for weight loss and prevention of weight regain for adults. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. 2009
– K. Schmitz et al. Strength training and adiposity in pre-menopausal women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2007, 86, 566 – 572.
– K. Park et al. The affect of combined aerobic and resistance exercise training on abdominal fat in middle-aged women. Journal of Physiological Anthropology and Applied Human Science. 2003, 22(3), 129 – 135.