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What’s a Better Workout for Weight Loss: Strength or Cardio?

cardio and strength

A hotly debated question in the fitness world is what works better for losing weight: burning calories during a cardio workout session or building muscle through strength training, which burns calories continuously during regular daily activities?

As it turns out, this is something of a trick question. Both provide advantages if you’re looking for a workout for weight loss.

Cardio Benefits

If you’re looking for a big, short-term calorie burn, cardio tends to be the winner. It’s also beneficial for reducing stress, which is important for weight loss. Not only does stress lead to less-than-awesome food choices, but it also increases cortisol, the hormone responsible for stubborn belly fat. Some studies have found that a cardio workout prompts exercisers to lose more weight in less time. So, if you have the high school reunion or destination wedding coming up, grab those running shoes.

Strength Advantages

For longer-term benefits, though, strength training builds muscle — unlike cardio, which can cause some muscle mass loss. And more muscle means your body burns more calories during and after exercise.

Plus, strength training can boost your metabolism for up to 36 hours after a workout (depending on intensity and duration), so you burn slightly more calories than you would otherwise. For example, you may burn 70 calories while watching TV instead of 60 calories. That can definitely add up over time.

Combo Time

When looking for the top workout for weight loss, why choose? There are lots of benefits to mixing both cardio workouts and strength training so that you get the best of both. You can either designate certain days as cardio or strength or do them in the same gym session. You can also strength train in a cardiovascular fashion by taking little to no rest between sets.

Solid Strategy

The fact is, every body is different. Two people could be the same weight and start a running program on the same day. One might lose a couple pounds a week while the other gains weight.

Many people tend to find that strength training is a better workout for weight loss over the long run, but that’s simply not universally true. The best tactic is to experiment for yourself. You might try either mixing cardio and strength in the same gym session or having specific days for just cardio and just strength.

Notice which seems better for your weight goals but also how you feel in general. Aside from losing weight, your workout should make you feel motivated, energized, and engaged. Don’t worry if it takes you a while to find the approach that clicks with you. Once you get it, you’ll have a workout that works.