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Cardio vs. Weightlifting: Which Exercise Reigns Supreme?

Making some massive generalizations, we can put exercise in two groups, cardio and weightlifting, and to make generalizations about the two. Many assume that if you’re looking to lose weight and stay toned, cardio is the way to go. For some reason, running to lose weight just seems right.

Weightlifting, on the other hand, is stereotypically known to get you “bulky”. After all, you rarely see the bodybuilder on a jog, but you do see him lifting an ungodly amount of weight above his head.

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There’s truth to both of these conceptions. According to Harvard Medical School, a 155 lb individual lifting weights will burn 112 calories in 30 minutes. That same individual jogging at 5 mph for 30 minutes, however, burners 298 calories. So, yes, running and similar forms of cardio do seem to be the calorie burning king of the two.

But, there’s more to the story. Calories burned during the workout aren’t everything. Post-Exercise burn occurs when the body is using calories to recover. After cardio, this metabolism spike lasts about 30 to 60 minutes. After weightlifting, it can last up to 48 hours. So, yes, cardio will burn more in the moment, but a heavy weight workout can be more beneficial down the road.

So what should you focus on in the gym? The truth is, like most health discussions, not exactly black and white. Everyone’s body is different, and everyone has different goals. Plus, remember that diet plays a massive role in your health goals. If you lift heavy weights and eat a ton of food, you’ll definitely gain some muscle. But if you lift weights in a caloric deficit, you’re likely to lose weight. The style of workout is not the only determinant for weight and health fluctuations.

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