The burning question: To lose weight should I do cardiovascular exercise or weight training?
If someone needs to lose weight relatively rapidly then the most appropriate mode of exercise would be aerobic/endurance activities. But, don’t discount weights.
Richard Lopez, Ph.D., Exercise Physiologist, professor at Florida International University, explains, “Large muscle group endurance exercises require the greatest caloric expenditure per exercise session. However, if a client can lose weight at a very moderate rate (i.e. less than a half pound per week or so) then resistance training may be more appropriate. While resistance training does not result in as large a caloric expenditure per exercise session, it does increase muscle mass, which increases resting metabolism.”
Not all fat reduction is the same
Some of the latest studies have added more confusion to the battle of aerobic vs. weight training in losing weight. A study from Duke Medical Center shows that when overweight people were put on a 12-mile jogging total per week or three days of resistance training or a combination of both – only the group who did the aerobic workout was able to reduce visceral fat. The group that combined both types of training lost about the same.
However, it’s important to note that the group lost visceral fat, which is the most internal and dangerous fat in terms of health. This is great but it doesn’t mean the fat that you see in your muffin top, meaning subcutaneous fat.
Fat vs. Muscle
In another study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, when groups were assigned to endurance training or to resistance training, three sessions per week, both exercise training groups reduced body fat and body weight. But changes in the lean mass were just observed in the group doing resistance training.
Additionally, after 24 weeks of detraining, the resistance group was able to maintain the lean mass and the gains in strength for more prolonged periods after training than the endurance group.
The rate of endurance performance lost following detraining appears to be faster than the rate of loss in strength following detraining. “For example, with endurance training, one increases their blood volume by 9 to 11%. This increase can be reversed within a little more than a week. With endurance training the number of mitochondria (the energy powerhouse) can double. With detraining, more than half of this gain can be lost within a week,” adds Lopez.
With resistance training, the rate of detraining appears to be slower. Also, the rate at which strength can be restored following detraining is faster than the rate at which endurance performance can be restored.
What does this mean to you?
- If you want lose weight rapidly, do aerobic training.
- If you want to lose weight slower while keeping the muscle mass and adding body tone, you better do resistance training.
- If you want to lose weight fast and steady while keeping body mass, adding tone and preventing the metabolism to slow down as it normally does when shedding pounds is the goal, you better do aerobic and resistance training.
A compromise between the two modes of exercise is circuit training which incorporates some aerobic activity (e.g. body weight squats) between the exercise sets. Refer to my previous article on how to work this into your routine.
Let me know how many pounds you lost and more important how you keep them off.
-Training and Detraining Effects of the Résistance Vs. Endurance program in Body Composition, Body Size, and Physical Performance in Young Men, The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, volume 25, number 8, August 2011.
- Aerobic Exercise Bests Resistance Training at Burning Belly Fat, Science Daily, August 2011.