Which Is Actually Better: Cardio Or Weights?

by | Nov 22, 2016 | Fitness

It’s the ultimate showdown! In one corner: badass cardio.
 In the other: boss-lady weights. When it comes to slimming down, who wins? We play referee…

To Burn Fat


Yes, cardio is the kilojoule-burning king. A study
in the Journal of Applied Physiology found aerobic exercisers lose up to four times more flab – and in less time – than those who solely strength train. The type to go for depends on your goal: continuous-intensity cardio is better for those with high weight-loss goals, while HIIT retains existing muscle while it stimulates fat-torching muscle enzymes. Your call.


But don’t jump on that treadmill just yet. Lifting weights gives you a metabolic spike an hour after your workout as your body repairs muscular micro tears. “Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, so the more you gain, the more kilojoules you’ll burn – and the more likely you are to keep fat off,” says exercise physiologist Dr Leigh Breen. Dibs on the kettlebells!

READ MORE: Beginner’s Guide: How To Lose Weight With Running

To Rein In Appetite


Sure, you’re starving after a run, but a study by researchers at the University of Western Australia found people who did high-intensity cardio ate less during the next meal and the following 24 hours than those who did moderate or no exercise. “This intensity level causes your body to circulate more blood to prevent overheating,” explains metabolism expert Dr Andy Blannin. Translation: blood is being diverted away from your gut, putting the brakes on your appetite.


Strength training lowers your hunger levels, but not in the same way cardio does, says a study in the American Journal of Physiology. The satiating effect ends about one to two hours after exercise when your body starts to crave the energy it’s using to repair and build muscle. Unfortunately, this hits women the hardest because we’re wired to keep our weight up for pregnancy and lactation.

READ MORE: 5 Insane Body Benefits Of A 40-Min Spin Class

To Tone Up


In a study by Pennsylvania State University, dieters
 lost around nine kilos doing either cardio or weights. But here’s the clincher: the cardio group lost three
 kilos of muscle while the lifters lost only fat. Translation: cardio junkies don’t choose what they lose – or from where. “Fat is systemic – it belongs to your whole body, meaning you can’t control where you drop it from,” explains Breen.


“On the flip side, you can target specific muscles with weights because muscles are localised,” says Breen. So if you did a bunch of squats, you’d see results in your hamstrings and glutes – but you’ve still got to do cardio for muscle tone to show.

READ MORE: 5 Moves To Tighten And Tone Fast!

And The Winner Is…

It’s a dead heat! When you exercise, your body uses anaerobic (quick bursts of) energy then moves on to aerobic energy, which requires oxygen. Strength only needs short energy spurts, so lift weights first, then do cardio. Score for you.

Looking for a plan to get fit and lean fast? Simply sign up for Women’s Health’s expert-approved 12-week Lean Body Blitz – and see real results!

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