The Right Exercise Prescription for Weight Loss


Cardiovascular exercise includes activities like jogging, bike riding or aerobics. We’ve known for a long time that this type burns more calories and really helps slim the body. It’s also the type to do for health benefits like decreased cholesterol or improved blood pressure. In fact, the health benefits from cardio are so vast in comparison to strength training that some people argue that ALL time should be spent doing cardio. Besides promoting good long-term health, doing cardio can immediately result in a boosted mood, more daily energy and that classic feel-good state from endorphins.

However, strength training still should not be neglected. Activities that build strength are weight training, body weight exercises or plyometrics. Even though weight training doesn’t burn nearly as much calories as cardio (about 1/3 compared to jogging), it holds the key to increasing our basal metabolic rate (BMR).

BMR is what’s working even when you’re not exercising. The body’s cells require energy even at rest and a large part of this is dictated by the amount of lean muscle you have. This is why strength training has the potential to boost metabolic rate by increasing the amount of lean body tissue. This is what tends to shape the body into having that athletic look. In addition, strength training can help stabilize blood sugars over time too, so it may be especially helpful with Diabetes - for an in depth discussion on blood sugar take a look at our article on why good health has everything to do with blood sugar and insulin .

Short-term benefits from weight training include:

  •   Boosted Confidence
  •   Increased Strength
  •   Muscular Endurance

So, you may be wondering which exercise is better for losing weight? The answer can be somewhat complicated. In a recent 2012 study, 118 overweight people were instructed to either do just cardio, just weight training or a combination of both. Over the course of 8 months what researchers found was that the cardio only and the combination diet lost the most weight and body fat (1). The resistance only group actually gained a tiny bit of weight, but this was an increase in their muscle mass and not body fat levels. Many other studies have pointed to the fact that both of these exercise types are important for different reasons. While cardio will slim a person’s body, most people are looking to change their body shape too. Lastly, weight training is essential to keep strength and function as we age.

  •   The best exercise prescription ideally includes both cardiovascular exercise and strength training.

Those who are looking to lose weight should spend more time with aerobic activities, while still completing the weekly minimum for strength exercises (2 times per week, targeting most major muscle groups).

Almost no one can rely solely on exercise for losing weight. Nutrition and healthy eating are still by far the number one opportune areas for change so be sure to check out our article on foods for weight loss and good health . Nevertheless, incorporating both of these exercise types is going to make the journey to a healthy weight a lot more enjoyable, so do your body a favor when choosing your exercises.


1. Willis, Leslie H., et al. "Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults." Journal of Applied Physiology 113.12 (2012): 1831-1837.

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