6 December 2013 This or That: Cardio or Strength Training Better for Weight Loss?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions when people start exercising regularly, and there has been a lot of research, books, blogs, comments, and opinions about it. However, a recently published study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, researched by the Duke University Medical Center, followed a group of overweight participants who did 45 minutes of cardio exercises three times a week and found that group lost more weight than those who spent about the same amount of time lifting weights.
This cardio group did lose about the same amount of weight as a third group, which did a combined cardio and strength training workout, but weight was lost by the cardio-only group in half the time as this combined group.
According to the researchers, this finding was a little “surprising,” as previous studies suggested that strength training, with either free weights, body resistance, or weight machines, would boost one’s metabolic rate and help spark fat burn. Researchers add that while this is still true, “it may be time to seriously reconsider the conventional wisdom that [strength training] alone can induce changes in body mass or fat mass.”
Researchers did add that the strength-training group and the combined group did gain lean muscle mass and strength, and that is important for overall health. But the bottom line suggests that if one’s top priority is weight loss, and time for exercise may be limited, pound for pound (pun intended), cardio will contribute to quicker fat loss than strength training.
More About the Study
This study included 234 overweight or obese adults. Groups were randomly assigned. The resistance training group exercised three days per week, completing weight lifting of three sets per day, 8-12 reps per set. The cardio group worked out three times per week, accumulating 12 miles of exercise per week through walking, running, and swimming. The combined group also exercised three days per week, three sets per day, 8-12 reps per set AND added 12 miles of aerobic exercise per week.
All sessions were supervised, and at the end 119 participants were analyzed for results. The strength training group actually gained weight due to an increase in lean body mass. The cardio group only exercised 133 minutes per week and lost weight while the strength training group exercised longer: 180 minutes per week. The combined group spent double the amount of time exercising.
It should be made clear that this study is not, nor are we, suggesting that strength training or a combination training is bad for anyone. This study just suggests that people’s time commitments and personal health goals can be better aligned by choosing with type of exercise can help them achieve what they want, in the time they have.
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