Exercising to Lose Weight

If you’ve decided you want to shed some pounds, you may be wondering what exercises are best suited to that aim. Should you become a runner or a gym rat? Cardio and lifting are two of the most popular forms of exercise for weight loss. But there’s no reason that you can’t combine both cardio and lifting. In fact, combining them, when done right, is perhaps the most effective way to lose weight and maintain a healthy physique. Let’s take a look at the benefits of cardio and strength training, respectively, and examine how to balance both types of exercise.

The Benefits of Cardio for Weight Loss 

Generally speaking, you’ll burn more calories in a cardio workout than in a weight training session (cardio exercises would include running, swimming, rowing, cycling, and using a jumping rope, stair climber, or elliptical machine). As a case in point, if you run at 6 miles per hour for half an hour, you could burn nearly twice as many calories compared to if you lifted weights for the same amount of time, using the same degree of effort.

The Benefits of Lifting for Weight Loss

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has published a review of scientific research on exercises for weight loss – and highlights that lifting weights is not the ideal exercise to shed pounds. Nonetheless, strength training does offer some unique benefits for those who want to stay in shape. Strength training is better at building muscle compared to cardio, and muscle is able to burn more calories at rest than fat. For this reason, lifting weights can help to increase your resting metabolism, which refers to how many calories you burn when you aren’t doing any exercise.

It should be emphasized that these benefits to your resting metabolism aren’t massive – as a man, you could expect to burn an extra 140 calories a day. However, studies have also shown that you burn more calories after a weight lifting session compared to a cardio workout. And this boost in resting metabolism can last even days after your weight training session, a benefit which cardio doesn’t seem to offer. Furthermore, the more muscle you gain, the more calories you’ll burn as a result of improved resting metabolism.

Combining Cardio With Lifting for Weight Loss

When combining cardio with weight loss, it’s important to make sure that you exercise enough. Simply combining both types of exercise, say, once a week, may not be sufficient for helping you achieve your weight loss goals. The ACSM, for example, states that exercising for less than 150 minutes a week of moderate or vigorous exercise like cardio is probably too little for significant weight loss. Doing more than 150 minutes a week, on the other hand, will help most people lose weight.


Doing over 150 minutes a week of cardio, while adding in some weight training, will also help you to lose even more weight, as well as improve your body composition. One study took 119 overweight or obese people and divided them into three groups: cardio, weight lifting, and cardio combined with weight lifting. After eight months, those who did cardio and those who combined exercises lost the most weight and fat, but the latter group gained the most muscle. This group, therefore, developed the best overall body composition.

Many people want to lose weight, not just for a desired physical appearance, but also because of the wide range of health benefits. Gaining muscle mass can also improve your health in a number of ways, which is why cardio plus weight lifting is an attractive combination for optimal health. Building muscle increases your strength, which is crucial, as the aging process involves a gradual decline in muscle mass. By becoming stronger, as well as losing weight, you’ll be able to stay active for longer. In addition, gaining muscle mass is associated with fewer injuries (as strength training protects your joints), as well as enhanced stamina and posture.

How to Effectively Combine Cardio With Lifting

There are all sorts of ways you can combine cardio with lifting in order to maximize your weight loss.

  • Do some cardio before your weight lifting session, as this will give you more energy and lead to a better workout. This might include a 10-15 minute warmup on a treadmill, bike, or elliptical machine.
  • In between weight lifting exercises, add in some cardio. For example, if you’re doing squats with a barbell, after your set, add in a few minutes of jumping jacks, jump squats, burpees, or step-ups. Essentially, any exercise that gets you out of breath is a cardio exercise.
  • Take less rest time between weight lifting exercises, as this will allow you to keep your heart rate up, giving you a cardio effect during your lifting session.
  • A cardio effect will also take place when your body has to adjust to new stressors. This might involve doing many repetitions of a lower weight, then switching to a few repetitions of a higher weight.
  • Use kettlebells. Many kettlebell exercises – such as kettlebell swings – combine a cardio workout with strength training.

While a combination of cardio and strength training is effective for weight loss, it’s only one piece of the puzzle. If you want to lose a significant amount of weight quickly and be able to maintain your ideal body weight, then it’s vital to also pay attention to one’s diet, lifestyle, and mental well-being. All of these can affect our weight and overall health.