Is it Better to Lift Weights or do Cardio to Lose Weight?

Lifting weights combined with cardio exercise leads to weight loss.

Lifting weights combined with cardio exercise leads to weight loss.

Losing weight isn't just about looking good in tight fighting clothes or enhancing your confidence; weight loss also improves your health. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute excess body fat can increase your risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, gallstones, cancer, high blood pressure and breathing problems. When you develop a plan of attack to reduce your weight it's important to consider all types of exercise, their effects on the body and how to effectively reach your goal.


Weight loss depends on the number of calories you consume compared to the number of calories you lose with daily physical activity. A gain or loss of 3,500 calories is equal to 1-pound of body fat. The safest and most realistic way to hit the 3,500-calorie mark is to aim for a 500-calorie deficit each day.


Weightlifting exercises can be performed with your body weight, dumbbells, barbells, weighted machines and resistance bands. Some common examples of exercises include curls, tricep extensions and the bench press. The goal of lifting weights is to increase lean muscle mass; lean muscle promotes fat loss because it burns calories faster than fat tissue.


Cardio exercise includes activities like running, swimming, jumping rope, walking and basketball. The goal of cardio exercise is to engage your large muscle groups while also increasing your breathing and heart rate to burn calories. The amount of calories you burn per workout depends on the activity you choose, the duration and the intensity you work at. For example, a 140-pound person can burn 219 calories an hour bowling, 438 calories an hour hiking and 861 calories running at a pace of 8 mph. Having more muscle mass can help you to work at higher intensities and for longer durations.

Expert Insight

Healthy, long-term weight loss occurs with a well-rounded program that includes muscle strengthening exercises and cardio exercise. The President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition advises that adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderately-intense cardio exercise along with a minimum of two days of muscle-strengthening exercises. As you build muscle with weights your body will burn calories faster during your cardio workouts, propelling your weight loss results. A good place to start is with two weightlifting workouts a week that are at least two days apart and five days of 30-minute cardio workouts.

About the Author

Ashley Farley has been a certified personal trainer since 2008. She is also a writer specializing in healthy living, fitness and nutrition topics. Farley has an Associate of Science in mental health services from the Community College of the Air Force and is pursuing her B.A. in English at Wright State University.

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