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Strength training vs cardio: What’s better for weight loss?

Cassey Maynard

It’s the age-old question fitness professionals face

Credit: nib health insurance

When it comes to exercise, what’s more effective in terms of weight loss: strength training or cardio? It’s the age-old question fitness professionals face and the messages around it are mixed and confusing to the everyday gym-goer. So, if you want to know which side of the fence to play on, read on.

The general rule is that cardio (also known as aerobic) workouts burn more calories and increase your fitness levels quicker than weight training. But, strength-based workouts can keep your heart rate elevated long after your sweat session has finished, helping you improve your strength and fitness. That’s why it’s essential to incorporate both into your weekly routine to help you maintain a healthy body, meet your weight loss goals and increase your energy levels.

The benefits of cardio exercise

It’s safe to say a lot of people hate cardio training because let’s face it… it’s hard and can sometimes feel like it never ends. You might not like cardio, but it’s a very important element that a lot of people are missing from their fitness regimes.

Cardio improves your overall fitness levels (so less huffing and puffing up those stairs) and can help strengthen your heart and lung function. Plus, there's that amazing post-training endorphin high! We all need happy vibes in our lives and cardio training is sure to bring them.

A young woman runs along the water with the city in the background

Cardio is an essential part of any good fitness plan, but that doesn’t mean you have to go on any long, boring runs (trust me, I never do them!). It's all about being smarter with your workouts.

Interval training is a great place to start and is quick and simple enough to suit even the busiest bee. Simply choose a few different exercises like hip raises, squats, star jumps, high knees, mountain climbers or burpees, add light weights and high reps with minimal rest time between and you’ve got yourself a pretty good sweat session.

Another great way to get your cardio workout in is through dancing, bike riding or a group fitness class where every rep is set to a beat of the music. I bet you won’t even know you’re working out because you’ll be having so much fun.

Want to start exercising? Here are four ways to get inspired.

The benefits of strength training

Strength (also referred to as resistance or weights) training is an essential form of exercise to improve joint function, bone density and muscle, ligament and tendon strength. If lifting heavy weights isn’t your jam, then combine strength and cardio by completing a high number of reps with light weights.

When it comes to strength training, remember to always include a warm-up at the beginning and cool down at the end of every workout. Warming up will ensure your muscles are ready and firing before you get into action and will help you avoid any nasty injuries that will pull you out of the exercise game.

A woman holds two hand weights above her shoulders as she exercises in the gym

Keep your workout simple and effective by starting with some light aerobic exercises followed by a few dynamic stretches for about five minutes. The post-workout cooldown is all about stretching it out to prevent sore muscles and stiff bodies the next day. These stretches should be held for at least 30 seconds for optimum results.

Exercise isn’t just about creating a toned, tight and terrific body; Combining cardio with strength training will help improve your mobility, balance and posture as well as your wellbeing, self-confidence and mood.

Happy sweat session!

Cassey Maynard smiling on a busy beach

Cassey Maynard

Cassey Maynard is one of Sydney’s most recognised fitness experts and health advocates. Also known as The Energiser, Cass (@cassey.maynard) is passionate about energising people’s lives through health and fitness in a playful, fun and educational way.

For more articles by Cassey, check out The Check Up’s dedicated section.