Cardio and Strength training impact on weight loss

Combine Cardio & Strength Training to Achieve Your Weight Loss Goals

If you want to lose weight, you’re cutting your weight loss potential by not lifting weights.

Cardio wears the crown when it comes to shedding pounds.  Just take a look at the size and physiques of runners and aerobics instructors.

Studies back up what runners’ bodies tell us: that cardio is king when it comes to losing weight.  But strength training also plays a major role in weight loss.  Without offsetting weight loss with increased lean muscle mass, it becomes harder and harder to keep off the weight you lose.

In a 2014 Harvard University study, researchers found that test subjects who combined resistance training with moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise had less gain in their waistlines than those who only performed aerobic exercise.  Thus, combining weight training and aerobic activity led to the most optimal results.

“This study underscores the importance of weight training in reducing abdominal obesity, especially among the elderly,” said Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at HSPH and senior author of the study.  “To maintain a healthy weight and waistline, it is critical to incorporate weight training with aerobic exercise.”

The results aren’t as surprising when you consider the role metabolism plays in losing (or gaining) weight.


At-Rest Metabolism & Weight Loss

People tend to obsess about their metabolism, and not without reason.  As a culprit for both gaining weight and the struggle to lose it, “slow metabolism” deserves the blame so often cast upon it.

The amount of calories required to fuel a body at rest, called resting metabolism or “basal metabolic rate,” varies based on age, gender, and overall fitness.  But it’s also closely correlated with lean muscle mass.

“People who are larger or have more muscle burn more calories, even at rest.” -Mayo Clinic  

This is why strength training is key to weight loss.  The more lean muscle mass you carry around, the more calories your body needs.  Those basic “hidden” functions include pumping blood and breathing, but also cell growth and hormone regulation.  When not at rest, a higher-mass body has an easier time achieving the caloric deficits needed to lose weight.

Resistance training and weight loss


Lose Weight Sitting Down

If your goal is to lose weight and you’re not considering your basal metabolic rate, you’re missing a major weight loss opportunity.   It doesn’t matter whether you call it strength training, resistance training, or lifting weights.  What does matter is that building lean muscle creates the mass that boosts your basal metabolic rate.  The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn, whether you’re working out or sitting down.


Muscle Mass & Metabolism

Aerobic training burns more calories than resistance training.  However, participants in Duke’s study–and anyone who’s ever consistently ran 15 to 25 miles a week–actually lost lean muscle mass as well.  Cardio workouts burn fat, but they also burn muscle, which is counterproductive to long-term weight loss.

The reason for this makes sense when you consider the body as a self-adapting tool for survival.  If the body travels long distances (currently for sport or health, historically for food), it does everything possible to conserve energy and ease the strain of that journey by shedding unnecessary weight.  A thin man with less mass is lighter, faster, and expends less energy than a heavy man.


Maximize Cardio with Weight Lifting

TuffStuff Strength Equipment and weight lossThe more lean muscle mass you have, the more calories your body burns during exercise.  Thus, incorporating a weight lifting routine to build lean muscle mass will actually make your cardio workouts more efficient as you will not have to train as long to burn the same number of calories.

Cardio has its place in fitness.  Short for “cardiovascular,” it is key to heart health.  It improves sleep, energy levels, blood circulation, and increases bone density among other benefits.  But if your goal is to reach a target weight and maintain it, lean muscle mass is key.  And no amount of cardio will build muscle.  As the Duke study shows, it actually does the opposite.

“Aerobic exercise is actually the most effective in losing weight, however, it’s not the best at burning fat and increasing lean mass” – Noam Tamir, CSCS, founder of TS Fitness


The Key Takeaway

According to Tamir, the best path to losing weight is resistance training and cardio.

“Strength training also gives you the ability to endure more during your aerobic training,” Tamir says. “The stronger you are, the less effort it takes for you to complete aerobic exercise.”

If you’re looking to up your strength training game, we’ve got you covered.  Contact us today to learn more about our residential and commercial strength training equipment.