There are a lot of conflicting opinions in the health and fitness industry regarding which exercise modality is most effective for weight loss- cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise versus strength (resistance/weight) training. The weight loss law states that energy expenditure must be greater than energy intake in order for weight loss to occur. Of course, the importance of good nutrition in this equation cannot be overstated! But when it comes down to choosing which type of exercise will contribute the most to fat loss, which one is most effective?
A method of measuring energy expenditure is the amount of calories burned. When considering calories only, research shows that cardiovascular exercise burns more calories per hour than strength training. Accordingly, cardiovascular exercise is a very important part of a weight loss or maintenance regimen. Besides contributing to quick energy expenditure, cardio strengthens the heart and lungs and has numerous health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and some forms of cancer, increased bone density, decreased stress, elevated mood and relief from depression and anxiety, less fluctuation in blood glucose levels, protective aging effects, and many more!
While it is clear that cardiovascular exercise burns more calories per hour, the amount of calories burned after strength training is higher. In scientific terms, strength training leads to a higher exercise post oxygen consumption (EPOC). This means that strength training will lead to a higher metabolism, or amount of calories burned to maintain normal body functions, for a longer period of time than cardiovascular exercise. While the metabolism remains elevated for 30-60 minutes after a cardio workout, it will increase for up to 48 hours after strength training. It is also important to note that muscle mass itself increases the body’s resting metabolic rate (RMR). RMR determines the majority of calories burned during the day, so the more muscle mass that you have, the greater the number of calories you will burn, even when you’re not exercising. Like cardiovascular exercise, strength training also has numerous health benefits, including increased bone density and reduced risk of osteoporosis, anti-aging effects, injury prevention, and immune system boosting effects, among many others.
When it comes to weight loss, both cardiovascular exercise and strength training are critical components. The amount, intensity, frequency, and timing of cardio and strength training may vary depending on your specific goal and your fitness baseline. When designing a weight loss program, it is also important to include all of the components of fitness- cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, muscle endurance, flexibility, and body composition.
At the Tough Spot Gym, our philosophy is that true fitness is about much more than weight loss! We cultivate a comprehensive approach to fitness and health to help you become the best that you can be.