If you need to lose weight pronto, running trumps lifting weights. Weight loss is all about expending more calories than you eat, and running simply has more burning power. However, the best strategy for overall fitness includes both cardio exercise such as running and strength-training exercise such as lifting weights. And don't forget about diet -- what you put in your mouth affects weight even more than exercise.
Running and Calories
It's hard to beat the calorie-blasting effects of running. At a moderate speed of 5 mph, a 160-pound woman burns around 600 calories per hour. Not too shabby -- and when she bumps it up to a vigorous 8 mph, the same woman torches about 860 calories per hour. To put this in perspective, it takes a deficit of approximately 3,500 calories to lose a pound of fat -- so you could theoretically drop a pound in four or five intense running sessions. However, only seasoned athletes can safely run for an hour straight, so don't expect these results if you're a newcomer to the track.
Weights and Calories
Lifting weights, a 160-pound woman burns about 365 calories per hour. But don't take these numbers at face value -- when you lift weights, you build valuable muscle mass. This muscle uses more energy than fat, even while you're sleeping, so weight training speeds up your metabolism in the long run. Despite the metabolism boost, however, strength training remains less effective for weight loss than cardio, according to a study published in the "Journal of Applied Physiology" in 2012. Researchers followed subjects over eight months and found that participants who performed aerobic exercise or a blend of aerobic exercise and weight training lost more weight than those who only performed weight training. However, both groups that performed weight training gained more lean muscle mass than the aerobics-only group.
To lose the weight for good, vary your routine with both cardio and strength training. Fit running or other vigorous aerobic exercise such as swimming laps into your routine for 75 to 150 minutes per week, or perform moderate cardio such as walking or swimming freestyle for 150 to 300 minutes per week. Hit the weights or perform other strength-training moves three times weekly for 20 to 30 minutes a pop. Pump all of your major muscle groups -- your legs, arms, back, chest, buttocks and abs.
To avoid injury and burnout, avoid diving headlong into a difficult exercise routine. If you don't run right now, start by walking and slowly incorporate running intervals of a minute or two. For weightlifting, stick with weights that you can lift 12 times -- your muscles should be exhausted by the 12th rep. Slowly work up to two to three sets. Allow your muscles at least 24 hours of recovery between strength-training sessions; it's fine to run two or more days in a row. Visit your doctor before starting a new weight-loss program.
- MayoClinic.com: Exercise for Weight Loss: Calories Burned in 1 Hour
- American College of Sports Medicine: Metabolism Is Modifiable With the Right Lifestyle Changes
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- MayoClinic.com: Strength Training: Get Stronger, Leaner, Healthier
- Journal of Applied Physiology: Effects of Aerobic and/or Resistance Training on Body Mass and Fat Mass in Overweight or Obese Adults
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.