Ditching Cardio May Help You Lose Weight, New Research Shows
There's a better way to tip the scales, fitness experts say.
Cardiovascular exercises like running, cycling, and aerobics have long been seen as the gold standard solution to weight loss. However, research increasingly suggests that this may not be the most effective way to shed extra pounds. One recent study published in the medical journal Diabetologia says that strength training can more efficiently burn fat and boost your metabolism. Read on to learn how swapping out some of your cardio for this effective alternative can help you lose weight.
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Strength training is more effective than cardio for weight loss, a new study says.
The research team behind the study recruited 186 individuals to take part in one of three exercise programs: strength training (ST), aerobic exercise (AER), and a third program that combined both approaches (COMB). The participants followed their workout regimen for nine months, before being analyzed for changes in weight, body composition, blood sugar, and more.
Ultimately, the study revealed that the group that did strength training alone saw the biggest changes in those three categories of assessment. They lost more weight than both the aerobic and combined exercise groups, and by doing so also saw greater stabilization in their blood sugar levels.
Here's why it's so effective.
Cardio may burn more calories during the activity, but strength training offers prolonged calorie-burning benefits. That's because the muscles need more energy to repair and grow post-workout, explains Andrew White, CPT, a certified personal trainer and co-founder of Garage Gym Pro.
"Strength or resistance training primarily targets muscle growth. The more muscle you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate becomes," White says. "In simpler terms, you burn more calories even when you're not working out. This process is what makes strength training an ace up your sleeve when it comes to weight loss."
There are other benefits of strength training, too.
Weight loss is a key benefit of strength training, but it's not the only reason to shake up your workout routine.
According to Robert Pustowar, founder of Home Athlete Zone, strength training can also increase bone density, prevent age-related bone and joint injury, improve posture and balance, and boost mood and energy levels.
"It also helps manage chronic conditions like arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes. Plus, let's not forget the confidence that comes from being stronger and more capable in everyday tasks," he tells Best Life.
Here's how to structure your workout routine.
White says that though the benefits of strength training are clear, he's a "firm believer in a holistic approach to fitness." Rather than cutting out cardio completely, he suggests trying a new distribution of physical activity.
"While strength training packs a punch for weight loss, cardio has undeniable heart and lung benefits. For those eyeing weight loss, I'd suggest a 70:30 ratio—70 percent strength training and 30 percent cardio. It's the golden mix of muscle building and heart-pumping action, ensuring you're not just losing weight but also building a healthy, resilient body," he says.
For those new to strength training, White recommends starting with three full-body sessions weekly to effectively target all major muscle groups while ensuring ample time for recovery.
"Prioritize compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses, as they work multiple muscles simultaneously. As you progress, gradually increase the weight to continuously challenge your muscles," he advises.
Don't get discouraged if the scale seems stubborn.
Finally, if you do decide to prioritize strength training over cardio, the experts advise measuring your success by factors that go beyond the scale.
"What most people are aiming for is healthy fat loss while maintaining their muscle mass (or even gaining muscle)," says Tracie Haines Landram, MS, CSCS, an ACE-certified fitness and nutrition specialist and contributing author at Bar Bend.
White agrees that since muscle weighs more than fat, people should stay encouraged, even if the number on the scale appears to plateau. "Your mirror and how your clothes fit will tell a different story," he says. "It's about creating a version of yourself that's strong, capable, and resilient."
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