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Weight Training for Weight Loss

By Dr. Kristie

Is weight training good for weight loss? Most people believe you burn more calories doing aerobic activity such as fast walking, jogging, or the elliptical machine. There’s no doubt that these exercises burn a significant number of calories, but don’t underestimate the power of weight training for burning calories. Can you lose weight training – without cardio?

Cardio vs. Weight Training: Is Weight Training Good for Weight Loss?

According to a study carried out at University of Colorado in Denver, lifting weights burns almost as many calories as aerobic activity over a twenty-four hour period.

In this study, participants burned as many calories pumping iron for seventy minutes over twenty-four hours than running at a moderate pace for fifty minutes.

Weight training has additional benefits when it comes to burning fat and calories. Weight training places stress on the muscles, which increases fat-burning even after the exercise is stopped. According to one study, an intense weight training session elevates the metabolic rate for up to two days after putting down the weights.

When muscles are stressed and muscle fibers are broken down, the body goes into “repair mode”, which requires a greater expenditure of energy. This effect isn’t seen, at least not to the same degree, with moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, although high-intensity aerobic may elevate metabolism for several hours afterwards.

Another Reason Why Weight Training is Good for Fat Loss

Weight training builds lean body mass, which is more metabolically active than fatty tissue. Aerobic exercise or cardio can break down muscle tissue if taken to the extreme. Ever notice how emaciated long-distance runners look? They’re running long distances and breaking down their lean body tissue, which lowers their metabolism.

Weight training is an investment. You build lean body tissue over time, which helps you burn more calories in the long run – and more calories after you finish lifting. Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise burns calories when you’re doing it, but doesn’t increase calorie-burn once you stop.

Cardio vs. Weight Training: The Bottom Line?

To maximize fat loss and build strong, lean muscles, it’s best to do both cardio and weight training. On the other hand, don’t underestimate the effect weight training can have on fat loss.

Keep in mind that this may not always be reflected by the number on the scale, since you’re building lean body tissue that weighs more. For best results, do cardio, but save some time for weight training too.

About the Author

She is a Medical Doctor with a concentration in Family Practice. She also has an undergraduate degree in both Biology and Psychology and masters in Clinical Pathology.


  • Fitness Prescription. February 2004. page 19.
  • Med Sci Sports Exerc. 34: 1793-1800, 2002. 


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