How to Lose Weight? Cardio vs. Weights

Is cardio or weight lifting better for losing (or maintaining) weight? It’s a very common question when it comes to weight or fat loss.

There are all sorts of opinions and advice on whether cardio or weight lifting is better. And throughout the last several decades the pendulum has swung back and forth between the two.


Cardio is the activity of getting your heart rate up and maintained in a higher range. Cardio simply put, burns more calories than would be burned in a session of lifting weights.

The more you weigh, the more calories are typically burned per exercise session.

For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, you will typically burn about 250 calories per 30 minutes of jogging at a moderate pace.

If you were to run at a faster pace of 6 miles per hour, you would burn around 365 calories in the same amount of time.

On the other hand, if you did weight training for the same amount of time, you might only burn around half as many calories.

Weight Training

While weight training burns fewer calories per session of exercise, it is more effective at building muscle – which has a number of benefits.

Building muscle results in more calories burned throughout the day and an increased resting metabolism rate.

A study was done which measured participants’ resting metabolisms during 24 weeks of weight training. In men, weight training led to a 9% increase in resting metabolism. The effects in women were smaller, with an increase of almost 4%. (I know, not fair)

Additionally, research has shown that you burn more calories in the hours after weight training compared to cardio workouts. In fact, there are reports of resting metabolism staying elevated for up to 38 hours after weight training! (No similar increase has been reported in cardio exercise.)

So, is cardio or weight training better?

Weight training may not be as helpful for weight loss.scale one showing five pounds of fat, scale two showing five pounds of muscle

However, is weightloss your true goal? Remember, 5 pounds of muscle is smaller than 5 pounds of fat. So, while your weight may not change (or may even increase), your appearance and composition will likely be improving.

A study done on 119 overweight individuals divided participants into three groups: cardio, weights and combining the two.

Participants that did cardio and cardio-plus-weights lost the most weight and fat. However, the groups that did weights and cardio-plus-weights gained the most muscle.

Overall, the cardio-plus-weights group had the best body composition changes. They lost weight and fat, while also gaining muscle.

Another long-term study done between 1987 and 2005 on over 10,000 participants also found that a combination of weight (or resistance) training with cardio (aerobic) exercises resulted in up to a 30% reduced risk of obesity.

This means that a combination of both weight-training and cardio exercise will be best for improving your body composition and long-term health.

To your health and fitness!

Dr. Ethan Kellum, M.D.

Nashville Regenerative Orthopedics

dr ethan kellum


NOTE: This blog post provides general information to help the reader better understand regenerative medicine, musculoskeletal health, and related subjects. All content provided in this blog, website, or any linked materials, including text, graphics, images, patient profiles, outcomes, and information, are not intended and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please always consult with a professional and certified healthcare provider to discuss if a treatment is right for you.