Should I do cardio or weight training? If you have made the decision to lose weight, you have probably asked this question. The good news is you are not alone! I am asked about the benefits of cardio versus weight training often. So let’s talk about both types of exercise and how you should approach your weight loss journey.
The short answer to this question is: you need to do both. Cardio and weight training are both necessary because they attack body fat in different ways. Cardio makes your heart and lungs stronger, strengthens your bones, and burns calories. Weight training has a metabolic effect on your body, optimizing fat loss. Plus, you build muscle which burns more calories than fat.
The long answer? You need to find what works best for your body.
If you have a lot of body fat to lose, it is great to start with just cardio. If you have joint issues or feel unsure of yourself in the gym, do not stress. Get on the treadmill, elliptical, or stair climber and just go. When you first begin working out, it does not matter what you do, but how often you do it. Consistency is the most important thing. If all you can handle is walking 20 minutes a day on the treadmill, then do it. I cannot emphasize this enough. Consistency beats intensity every time.
Eventually you will move on to more intense cardio sessions and weight lifting because your body will feel better. Start easy with weight lifting machines. Then you can move on to smith machines and work your way to free weights. Do not be impatient and stay consistent. You will get there.
A quick note about cardio. You will find that everybody reacts differently to cardio. You may find that running a lot helps you lose weight, letting you eat more with no effect on your weight loss goals. Other people can run every day and it will not help them with fat loss. If you are in the first group, do not think that just because you are doing a lot of cardio, you can eat whatever you want. That is not how it works!
If you do not have a lot of body fat to lose, then your goal is probably to have a strong body and get as lean as possible. You must do weight training to achieve this goal. While cardio will burn many calories, it will not change the shape of your body. For example, if you are pear shaped and only do cardio, then you will only become a smaller pear. If you want broader shoulders and a flatter stomach, strength training is necessary.
So how do you decide how much cardio and weight training to do? You will need to experiment to find what works best for your body type. Start off splitting your workouts 50/50. If you want to work out for one hour, four times a week, then do 30 minutes of weight training and 30 minutes of cardio. Evaluate your body after four weeks. Are you getting stronger? Losing body fat? Great! Keep it up. If not, change up the split. You may find that you need to up strength training to 60% and drop cardio to 40%. You may even need to change the ratio to 70/30. If your goal is to get really cut, you will probably need to up the cardio to burn extra calories for extra weight loss.
If you only have time for one type of workout, I recommend weight training instead of cardio. Muscle is the wood that fuels the fire of the fat burning process. Cardio will not have that same metabolic effect unless it is HIIT. I discussed HIIT in another article earlier this week 3 Types of Cardio Training so be sure to check that out. Make time to lift 3-4 times a week and you will see changes in your body within a month. Add in cardio when you can to help your overall health and you will be well on your way to the best shape of your life.