Cardio vs. Resistance Training

Cardio vs. Resistance Training

Tya Waterman |

If you’ve ever wondered whether you should be sweating it out on the treadmill or training with weights, this post is for you. If you’ve wondered what form of fitness will help you achieve results faster, keep reading! If you’re looking to chisel your physique, but aren’t sure which approach to take, we’re here to help you too.

In a study conducted in 2012 at Duke University, the largest study of its kind, researchers compare aerobic (cardio) activity versus resistance training to better understand the question many people are asking, from a scientific perspective, which of the two yields greater results.

For eight months the study tracked 119 overweight volunteers who were essentially inactive. The participants performed aerobic exercise calorically equivalent to about 12 miles or 133 minutes per week; resistance training only, three days per week of lifting weights for a total 180 minutes per week.. Before and after the exercise regimen, they tested the body compositions of each person.

The research concluded that the group doing cardio lost more fat where as the resistance training group actually gained muscle.  It went on to suggest that people who are overweight are best to begin with strictly aerobic exercise.

“It’s simple math,” says study co-author Cris Slentz, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at Duke University. “Minute per minute, cardio burns more calories, so it works best for reducing fat mass and body mass.”

However, he adds, “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.”

In other words, where cardio might help you get to a lower number on the scale in less time, weight training may actually help to keep you there. And, according to Harvard Medical School, each pound of muscle tissue on your body burns through about 35 to 38 calories every day.

“It’s also important to remember one essential fact about exercise and weight loss,” says Slentz. “Exercise by itself will not lead to big weight loss. What and how much you eat has a far greater impact on how much weight you lose.”

So what does this all mean? Let’s break it down…if your goal is to lose pounds and or inches, focus on achieving a cardio effect. If you want to improve strength or chisel an existing lean physique, hit the weights. If you want to see maximum impact – combine the two.

Calories burned in 30-minute activities
Gym Activities 125-pound person 155-pound person 185-pound person
Weight Lifting: general 90 112 133
Aerobics: water 120 149 178
Stretching, Hatha Yoga 120 149 178
Calisthenics: moderate 135 167 200
Riders: general 150 186 222
Aerobics: low impact 165 205 244
Stair Step Machine: general 180 223 266
Teaching aerobics 180 223 266
Weight Lifting: vigorous 180 223 266
Aerobics, Step: low impact 210 260 311
Aerobics: high impact 210 260 311
Bicycling, Stationary: moderate 210 260 311
The Verdict?

Eat well, push your body beyond what you think it’s capable of by doing both aerobic and weight training. In the end, you’ll feel and move better. Strive for constant never-ending improvement. We do!


Study – Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults, Leslie H. Willis et al, Journal of Applied Physiology, December 2012, 1831-1837. Duke University Medical Center