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  • Mariah Graham & Shania Kelpe

Strength Training VS Cardio for Weight Loss

Edited by: Naomi Abayomi

Strength Training for Weight Loss

By: Mariah Graham

The best physical activity for weight loss is often up for debate between cardiovascular training and strength training. This article will review both types of training, in regards to weight loss. Weight loss is dependent on expending more calories than one is consuming, also known as a caloric deficit. Exercise aids in this process since doing physical work will expend energy (aka “burn calories”). The amount that is used depends on a few factors such as starting physical fitness, weight, intensity of the activity, and duration of the activity.


Strength Training for Weight Loss

Physical activity is important for overall health, however when the goal is to lose weight, strength/resistance training (S/RT) has different benefits compared to cardiovascular training. As many studies have pointed out, in order to lose weight an adequate diet must be implemented along with the training to see optimal results (Swift et al., 2018; Barakat et al., 2020; Wewege et al., 2021). In general, if your goal is to lose weight, S/RT significantly facilitates muscle growth and strength. Developing lean muscle mass through S/RT also contributes to increases in resting metabolic rate, so at rest your body will expend more energy (i.e., burn calories), potentially up to 100 calories more in a day as suggested by the Wewege et. Al study (Wewege et al., 2021). The most beneficial attribute of S/RT programs alone, in regards to weight loss, is the reduction in abdominal and visceral fat (Wegewe et al., 2021; Maestroni et al. 2020). Visceral fat contributes to negative health outcomes such as diabetes and other metabolic diseases (Daley et al., 2014). Weight loss can also be measured by inches lost around areas that tend to store more fat (e.g., abdomen, upper arms, thighs etc), rather than just a number on the scale. When actively attempting to lose weight, it is also important to consider this type of change as muscle and fat of a similar weight will look different on the body because muscle is much denser than fat. After a training program, of about 8-12weeks, a person can weigh a similar amount as they did before starting the program but can look slimmer than they previously did. This phenomenon can also be known as body recomposition, as the person training gains lean muscle mass and loses fat mass.

Progressive overload is a training principle that leads to continuous development performance as the body adapts to increased loads (Daley et al., 2014). Progressive overload is increasing the difficulty, or intensity of the training regimen just enough for the body to need to readapt without unnecessary injury. An example of progressive overload is increasing weight by 2-10% so that the trainee cannot do more than 8-10 reps per set of exercise in their program (Daley et al., 2014).


Besides weight loss, S/RT has various of other health benefits (Maestroni et al. 2020), such as:

  • Enhancing sleep (which is very important for recovery after exercises)

  • Managing mental health and illness (reduce feelings of depression and anxiety, improve self-esteem)

  • Decrease risk of cancer, metabolic disease, cardiovascular diseases and dementia

  • Improve tendon, bone, cartilage and muscle quality – this reduces the risk of injury and improves function in daily activities (grocery shopping, walking) and playing sports.

  • Decreases inflammation and suppress growth of cancer cells


End Summary

  • The most important thing during weight loss is consistency. If you are doing an activity that you enjoy and is constantly challenging, you are more likely to be successful with weight loss. Additionally, whether you choose strength training or cardiovascular training, it is important to maintain safe practices, as injury can be not only detrimental to health but also your progress with weight loss.

Cardio For Weight Loss

By: Shania Kelpe

According to the WHO guidelines, it is recommended that an adult take part in at least 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week and decrease sedentary time as much as possible. This was suggested to maintain/create a healthy lifestyle for individuals so that the risk of chronic and preventable diseases are reduced. For weight loss, an individual is advised to take part in moderate to vigorous- intensity exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes at least five times per week (Ho et,. al.).

Aerobic exercise has not only shown to aid in weight loss but can also improve risk factors for diseases such as obesity and cardiovascular disease as it helps to improve blood circulation and has the potential to improve other factors such as cholesterol, glucose and insulin sensitivity in the body. Frequently taking part in aerobic training can also decrease the risk of dementia in individuals at any age as it helps to improve brain function and memory ability (Team, 2021). To help lose body fat and body mass, aerobic training is highly recommended and considered the better type of exercise to do compared to resistance training (Willis et. al). Aerobic training significantly reduced body fat, visceral fat and weight compared to resistance training in some studies. Aerobic training has shown to improve risk factors such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancers (Ho et., al.). Although aerobic training is effective, a combination of both aerobic and resistance training has shown to be the most effective way to decrease body fat and body weight.


Wewege, M.A., Desai, I., Honey, C. et al. The Effect of Resistance Training in Healthy Adults on Body Fat Percentage, Fat Mass and Visceral Fat: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med (2021).

Barakat, C., Pearson, J., Escalante, G., Campbell, B., & De Souza, E. O. (2020). Body Recomposition: Can Trained Individuals Build Muscle and Lose Fat at the Same Time? Strength and Conditioning Journal, 42(5), 7–21.

Swift, D. L., McGee, J. E., Earnest, C. P., Carlisle, E., Nygard, M., & Johannsen, N. M. (2018). The Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Weight Loss and Maintenance. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, 61(2), 206–213.

Maestroni, L., Read, P., Bishop, C., Papadopoulos, K., Suchomel, T. J., Comfort, P., & Turner, A. (2020). The Benefits of Strength Training on Musculoskeletal System Health: Practical Applications for Interdisciplinary Care. Sports Medicine (Auckland), 50(8), 1431–1450.

Daly, R. M., Miller, E. G., Dunstan, D. W., Kerr, D. A., Solah, V., Menzies, D., & Nowson, C. A. (2014). The effects of progressive resistance training combined with a whey-protein drink and vitamin D supplementation on glycaemic control, body composition and cardiometabolic risk factors in older adults with type 2 diabetes: study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials, 15(1), 431–431.

Ho, S. S., Dhaliwal, S. S., Hills, A. P., & Pal, S. (2012). The effect of 12 weeks of aerobic, resistance or combination exercise training on cardiovascular risk factors in the overweight and obese in a randomized trial. BMC Public Health, 12(1).

Team, H. and V. (2021, August 5). From head to toe: The benefits of a cardio workout. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved October 29, 2021, from

Willis, L. H., Slentz, C. A., Bateman, L. A., Shields, A. T., Piner, L. W., Bales, C. W., Houmard, J. A., & Kraus, W. E. (2012). Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults. Journal of Applied Physiology, 113(12), 1831–1837.

World Health Organization. (n.d.). Physical activity. World Health Organization. Retrieved October 29, 2021, from

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