Combine Cardio and Weights

The perception of exercise in today’s fitness world is that cardiovascular exercise is the most efficient way to burn calories and fat. This information isn’t entirely inaccurate, but there’s more to the weight-loss equation to consider.

Traditional cardiovascular exercise, also referred to as “cardio,” can raise the heart rate to a safe yet beneficial level, depending on the intensity. The higher the heart rate within a safe range -- 60-85 percent of the recommended heart rate maximum -- the more calories burned. Cardiovascular exercise is an excellent way to immediately burn calories and fat, but it doesn’t have to be the sole contributor.

Weight training may not burn as many calories during exercise, because the heart rate fluctuates from a lower rate to a higher rate. With weight training, it’s important to integrate a resting period of one to two minutes between sets. Therefore, it makes sense that cardiovascular training might burn more calories during exercise.

That’s not to say that weight training doesn’t burn calories. What exercisers need to remember about weight training is that it builds muscle over time. Because muscle is more metabolically active than fat, the body’s temperature increases, thus burning more calories at rest and in the long run. Your Basal
Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the amount of calories burned at rest. If people who struggle to lose weight can add some muscle and raise their BMR, it will help them reach their weight-loss goals.

Think about short-term and long-term effects of exercise. Cardio burns calories immediately, but doesn’t raise the BMR like weight training. Weight training can potentially burn calories, depending on the intensity and amount of rest being taken. The key point, however, is that weight training will raise the amount of calories being burned at rest, which means you can take a day off of exercise and still burn calories.

The combination of cardiovascular training and weight training will have the most influence in helping you reach your weight-loss goals. Set up an exercise routine integrating a combination of cardiovascular and weight training, and the chances of reaching your potential will increase drastically.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends moderately intense cardio for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, or vigorously intense cardio 20 minutes a day, three days a week, and eight to 10 strength-training exercises, with eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise, twice a week.

Disclaimer: The information on this page was compiled by Brad Arthur, MSEd, BJC WellAware Center exercise physiologist. This material provides general information only. It should not be used in place of the advice, instructions, or treatment given by your doctor or other health care professional.