For years, the big question on everyone's lips – and something that divides many fitness experts – is whether cardio or lifting weights is best for losing the pounds. The hotly-debated topic (which has the tendency to jump back and forth) might finally have some resolution, according to Health.com.
According to a Duke University study – the largest of its kind – the best exercise for weight loss was found to be aerobic. Also known as cardio, this type of exercise requires an increase in your heart and breathing rates, and gets your blood pumping.
The researchers tracked 119 overweight (and previously sedentary) volunteers as they embarked on one of three exercise programmes – resistance/strength-based training, cardio or a combination of both. The group performing aerobic exercise became the clear winners when it came to weight loss – and lost 4lbs, compared to their strength-based training peers who lost 2lbs.
It is important to highlight that, those who did strength training, added to their weight with lean mass, but the added muscle didn't lead to meaningful fat loss. Those doing cardio exercises actually lost more body fat, despite exercising 47 minutes less a week than the strength-based exercisers.
What about the cardio and resistance team? Although they spent twice as long in the gym, compared to both the other groups, these participants improved their body composition the best – adding muscle and losing the most fat.
Study co-author Cris Slentz, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at Duke University told Health.com:
"Minute per minute, cardio burns more calories, so it works best for reducing fat mass and body mass… Resistance training is important for maintaining lean body mass, strength and function, and being functionally fit is important for daily living no matter what your size."
What we can take from the study is not just about weight-loss (in many instances, this isn't indicative of health), but the benefits of a varied regime, which incorporates strength-based exercises and cardio. In fact, as you get older strength-based exercises/body resistance workouts have been found to provide protective benefits – maintaining muscle mass and strength, and protecting weakening joints. While cardio helps keep your heart healthy and your stress levels down. Not to mention, a varied regime is likely to keep you more motivated.
We asked NetDoctor fitness expert, Laura Williams, for her thoughts:
"Cardiovascular exercise is fabulous for increasing fitness levels and helping to manage weight so it's great this has been highlighted in the study. There's been a huge bias towards resistance training when it comes to weight management so hopefully this study will go some way to redressing that balance. Fitness professionals need to promote and include both types of training in order to offer a balanced programme."
From NetDoctor"A balanced exercise routine will include both low-to-moderate and higher intensity cardiovascular exercise to tick fitness, bone density and weight management boxes while resistance training should be varied for best results, with exercises including all major muscle groups, not forgetting the core muscles. Resistance training is key to keeping bones and muscles strong and well supported, as well as helping to maintain an efficient metabolic rate."