Cardio versus Weight Lifting: Which Is Better for Weight Loss?

Many people who’ve decided to lose weight find themselves stuck with a tricky question — should they do cardio or lift weights?

Cardio Burns More Calories per Session

Many scientists have researched how many calories people burn during various activities. Based on this research, you can use your body weight to estimate how many calories you will burn during different types of exercise, including cardio and weight training. For most activities, the more you weigh, the more calories you will burn. In general, you’ll burn more calories per session of cardio than weight training for about the same amount of effort. The number of calories you burn during exercise depends on your body size and how intensely you exercise. Typically, a cardio workout burns more calories than a weight training workout of the same duration.

Weight Training Helps You Burn More Calories Every Day

Although a weight-training workout doesn’t typically burn as many calories as a cardio workout, it has other important benefits. For example, weight training is more effective than cardio at building muscle, and muscle burns more calories at rest than some other tissues, including fat.

Because of this, it is commonly said that building muscle is the key to increasing your resting metabolism — that is, how many calories you burn at rest. However, weight training also has other important calorie-burning benefits. Specifically, research has shown that you burn more calories in the hours following a weight training session, compared to a cardio workout. In fact, there are reports of resting metabolism staying elevated for up to 38 hours after weight training, while no such increase has been reported with cardio.

This means that the calorie-burning benefits of weights aren’t limited to when you are exercising. You may keep burning calories for hours or days afterward.