HEALTHY LIVING: Strength training or cardio exercise?

Published 12:19 am Thursday, September 24, 2015

Which is best for weight loss?  Long gone are the days when the men pumped iron in the gym while the ladies in headbands and leotards did grapevines and jazz moves in a class next door. 

These days it’s a more mixed approach to exercise, because women are into the fact that strength training isn’t just for the boys. In fact, it’s an essential weapon in the battle of the flab!  So, what is the best for losing the pounds and toning up?  Easy answer – BOTH!

Cardio, is anything that gets your heart rate up, makes you feel sweaty, and gets more oxygen pumping through your blood. Running, cycling and aerobic classes, like ZUMBA, are all examples.

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Government guidelines suggest adults should do two-and-a-half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week for health.  “Cardiovascular exercise is a fantastic way to improve your health and fitness,” says YMCA Operations/Health & Wellness Director, Manuel Ramon.  “Your heart and lungs will benefit immensely from consistent cardiovascular exercise,” he tells us. “It is especially important for beginners, as it thickens the tendons and ligaments in joints in preparation for higher intensity exercise.”

The benefits of cardiovascular training are numerous: you will get huge health benefits, improved circulation, increases in bone density (to help combat osteoporosis), improved sleep and reduced anxiety levels. Cardio also increases your energy levels, as long as it’s not done to excess.  There are so many activities you can do, like swimming or indoor cycling that you are bound to find something you love, or something to do with friends, and will therefore stick to, which is the key to any type of exercise.

On the Flip Side

Strength training is any exercise that helps the different muscles in your body become stronger and more powerful. It can be through using weights, or even your own bodyweight like press-ups and squats. It can be resistance-based, using different things, like elastic gym bands or gym fit balls.

If you want to help tone muscles and strengthen bones, strength work is vital; it’s also key to losing weight.  By doing strength or weight training you are looking at increasing your muscle tissue. The more lean muscle tissue you have the more calories you burn.  Weight training is more effective for fat-loss than cardio. You are likely to see the best results if you increase your metabolic rate; this is what strength training does. 

Cardio work aids fat loss when on a calorie controlled diet but the effect on body shape and size is minimal unless you’ve never done it before.

Always prioritize weight training first and foremost, leaving cardio for recovery days when your muscles need to be stretched and you want an energy boost!

There has been a lot of research done on weight training versus cardio and most experiments show weight training to be better for fat loss and short sharp bursts of high intensity cardio to be better than steady state cardio. 

Another plus to strength training is that your body is still burning calories when you’re sitting on the sofa watching TV after your workout!

There you have it.  The key to weight loss and toning is a healthy balance of cardio and strength training.

A certified personal trainer can help you develop a program tailored specifically to your needs.

Contact Jody Holton at