Lifting Weights vs. Cardio

As we are almost finished with the first month of 2020, many people are already in the middle of their New Year’s Resolutions. It’s well-know that the most common resolutions around the world are to exercise more and to lose weight. Often, these two go hand in hand. It’s hard to lose weight without exercising. And losing weight enables you to accomplish far more in the gym.

However, people are often stuck at a crossroads when they set out to begin their fitness journey. If they’ve already set how much weight they want to lose or how much they want to bench press, then it’s time to start working towards these goals, but where do you begin?

When you hit the gym, you want to know what exercises positively impact your body the most, especially when it comes to weight loss. However, people are torn between lifting weights and cardio. We all know that both exercises are great for you, but people want to know what’s best for weight loss.

It’s a complicated answer. Fitness Nation wants to help you find the best workout plan for your goals by breaking down the difference between lifting weights and cardio.

Burning Calories

The key to losing weight lies in burning calories. You can burn calories doing several different activities, some as simple as walking. You even burn calories in your sleep, although it’s very little!

Research has shown us that your body weight gives you a good estimate of how many calories you’ll burn during an exercise. Typically, the more you weigh, the more calories you burn.

However, today we are going to be focusing on cardio and lifting weights to see how each affects calorie burning.


Cardio helps you burn more calories during your cardio session, as opposed to weightlifting. If you weigh 160 pounds and go for a 30-minute jog at a moderate pace, you will burn roughly 250 calories. If you increase your pace to six miles per hour, you can burn upwards of 365 calories in that time frame.

On the other hand, if you lifted weights for the same length of time, you would only burn about 130 to 220 calories. Typically, you are more likely to burn more calories per session engaging in cardio, rather than weightlifting.

Lifting Weights

We have established that weightlifting doesn’t burn as many calories as cardio does per session. However, lifting weights does offer plenty of significant benefits.

While cardio does help you burn more fat than weightlifting, you build more muscle lifting. This is significant because muscles burn more calories while at rest than other tissues, including fat, because building muscle increases your metabolism.

Metabolism is the process of converting the food you consume into energy. The food and drinks you consume are comprised of calories, which are then burned to produce energy. This process is what helps you lose weight.

When you build muscle, you increase your resting metabolism, helping you burn calories when you aren’t doing anything. In a study measuring resting metabolisms over 24 weeks of weight training, researchers found that men had a 9% increase in their resting metabolism, while women had almost a 4% increase.

While lifting weights and building muscle does improve your metabolism, it only does so by a small margin.

However, lifting weights also helps you burn calories after your workout is complete. Some research has shown that your body continues to burn more calories in the hours following your weightlifting session than a cardio session. This means that even though your workout may be complete, your body is still burning calories long after you have left the gym. Remember, these results are often found following intense workouts.


We would be remiss if we did not mention high-intensity interval training (HIIT) when discussing exercising and weight loss. HIIT involves short bursts of intense exercises with minimal recovery periods. These sessions typically only last as long as 30 minutes. HIIT has proven to burn nearly the same number of calories as cardio over less time, reducing body fat percentage and waist size as well as cardio.

Variety is Best

While cardio and weightlifting both have their share of benefits, they often work best when they are paired together. Each exercise has different effects on your body, but when paired together, they work to improve the overall composition of your body.

Lifting weights may help you build muscle, but it isn’t as effective when it comes to weight loss. However, just because your weight doesn’t change, doesn’t mean your body hasn’t. Lifting weights increases your muscle mass while decreasing your body fat. If the changes in muscle and fat are equal, your weight will stay the same. However, your body will be much healthier.

A study was conducted involving 199 overweight or obese adults. They were all split into three groups: cardio, weights, and cardio plus weights. The results after eight months were:

  • Those in the cardio and cardio plus weights lost the most weight and fat.
  • Those in weights and cardio plus weights put on more muscle.

The cardio plus weights group showed the biggest improvements to their overall body composition. They were able to cut more fat and weight while gaining more muscle.

If your goal is to lose weight and burn fat, then cardio is your best option. However, if you want to lose fat while also improving your overall body composition, you need to add a healthy dose of cardio and weightlifting to your workouts.

Millions of people across the world have made New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight and work out more. When people set out on their fitness journey, they struggle to find the right workout plan for their goals. They often debate between lifting weights and cardio. However, to truly experience the most benefits, both in gaining muscle and losing weight, you should incorporate both into your fitness routine. Fitness Nation has all the equipment you need for both weightlifting and cardio.