As new year’s resolutions go, weight loss tops the list for millions of people. It may even headline your list of promises for the new year. Whether you are aiming for a total body makeover or you just want to shed those holiday pounds, choosing the right exercise can make a big difference in your end result.
The Weights Versus Cardio Debate
Most health and fitness professionals agree: exercise is crucial for weight loss and maintenance. They disagree, however, on the best plan for the job. Cull through the pages of research, and you will find a vast difference of opinion.
When it comes to losing weight with exercise, you have two choices: weight training and cardiovascular workouts. Each exercise type offers a unique set of benefits, and both are necessary for overall fitness. Which is the better choice for weight loss?
The Weight Training Edge
Many athletes and fitness experts insist that weight training is the best weight loss solution. They credit the metabolic spike that occurs after a workout. As your body works to restore and repair muscle, it continues to burn calories after your strength session ends.
Heavier weights and shorter rests can burn additional calories. Moreover, as your body builds muscle, it requires more energy to sustain the muscle. You could lose several pounds of weight this year without changing your diet or doing cardio.
Some professionals believe that long-term aerobic activity could actually hurt your weight-loss goals. They cite studies that show cardiovascular exercise to increase blood cortisol levels. The research links a cortisol imbalance to increased abdominal fat.
With this in mind, strength training could easily win the weight loss debate. However, cardio training is the traditional recommendation for weight loss and many professionals think it is still the best choice. They also have research to back up their claims.
The Cardio Training Edge
Strength training definitely has an edge, but many experts give a slight advantage to cardiovascular workouts. Calorie for calorie, aerobic activities like running and bicycling burn more energy per minute than weight lifting. People who choose strength over cardio training are often disappointed with their weight loss results.
While resistance training can change the shape and composition of your body, it may not move the scale. In fact, you could end up weighing more than when you started your weight loss efforts. This is especially true for mesomorphs, people who easily build muscle, and endomorphs, those who readily gain muscle and fat.
When your focus is weight loss, you may lose motivation if weight training fails to move the scale in your favor. The time you spend in cardio training increases your heart rate and burns more fat. Alternating short periods of intense activity with rest periods will increase fat loss without muscle gain.
In addition, studies show that runners, cyclists and swimmers enjoy a high confidence level. It stems from the sense of accomplishment they feel when they cross the finish line, even if they are the last person to cross it. The confidence-building aspect of aerobic activity is good motivation for your weight loss efforts.
Exercise Order Matters
Physical workouts are always good for your body, and you may discover optimal weight loss results through strength training and cardiovascular exercise. Strength training boosts your metabolism and strengthens your bones. Running, swimming and other aerobic activities improve your heart health, mood and cancer-fighting abilities.
Does exercise order matter? If you are trying to lose weight, it does. The gym is the first place to head when you want to gain muscle mass and increase your metabolism. If you want to lose fat, however, you must add cardiovascular exercise to the mix.
Cardio training depletes your body’s supply of glycogen, the primary energy source that is stored in your muscles. When the glycogen is depleted, your body turns to long-term energy sources like body fat. If a lean body is your fitness goal, make high intensity cardio workouts your top exercise choice.
Weight training is always a good complement to cardiovascular workouts. Resistance training preserves lean muscle tissue, which is often lost through exercise and diet.
Takeaway: Exercise is Good
What is the takeaway? It is simple, really: exercise is good. If exercise for weight loss is your new year’s resolution, you are doing something right.
Depending on your fitness goals, you may choose to engage in one exercise over another. However, combining strength with cardio is often the best solution for weight loss. Make going to the gym a priority this year, and you are halfway to your fitness goals.