Which Types of Exercise Should You Do?
Interestingly, ACSM's review of the research found that weight training is not very helpful for weight loss.
However, it is important to remember that even if your weight doesn't change, your body composition may be improving.
For example, weight training can lead to an increase in muscle and a decrease in fat.
If your muscle and fat change by the same amount, the scale may stay the same, even though you got healthier.
One large study in 119 overweight or obese adults helps put everything into perspective regarding exercise and weight loss. Participants were divided into three exercise groups: cardio, weights or cardio plus weights (15).
After eight months, those who did cardio and cardio plus weights lost the most weight and fat.
Meanwhile, the weights and cardio-plus-weights groups gained the most muscle.
Overall, the cardio-plus-weights group had the best body composition changes. They lost weight and fat, while also gaining muscle.
This means that a program that combines cardio and weights may be best for improving your body composition.
Cardio is more effective than weight training at decreasing body fat if you do more than 150 minutes per week. Weight training is better than cardio for building muscle. A combination of cardio and weights may be best for improving your body composition.
Both Diet and Exercise Are Critical for Long-Term Success
Most people know that exercise and a healthy diet are essential for optimal health.
All major health organizations recommend changing both your diet and exercise routine to promote weight loss (14).
Commitment to the best exercise program is not enough, as you still need to pay attention to your diet if you want to optimize your progress.
Research has shown that the ideal program for long-term weight loss includes a moderate reduction in calorie intake and a good exercise program (16).
While many people know that a healthy diet is critical for weight loss, some go too far and say that diet is the only thing that matters.
However, it’s important to realize that exercise helps too.
One scientific review including over 400 people examined the weight loss effects of diet plus exercise and compared them to the effects of dietary changes alone.
The researchers found that the combination of dietary changes plus exercise led to 20% greater weight loss than dietary changes alone after a period of 10 weeks to one year (17).
What's more, the programs that included diet plus exercise were also more effective than diet alone at maintaining the weight loss after another year.
A healthy diet and good exercise program are two of the most critical factors for long-term weight loss success. Weight loss programs that include exercise can lead to greater weight loss and better weight maintenance over time.
The Bottom Line
Both cardio and weights can help you become healthier and more fit.
A cardio workout burns more calories than a weight-training workout.
However, your metabolism may stay elevated for longer after weights than cardio, and weight lifting is better for building muscle.
Thus, the ideal exercise program for improving body composition and health includes cardio and weights. It is best to do both.