When people talk about losing weight or burning fight they almost immediately follow that up with “I’m going to start running” or “I forgot to hit the treadmill”. Every time I hear this it makes me cringe a little. For individuals that don’t know much about exercise or the science of the body, I guess I can see why this seems logical. Well unfortunately it’s not all that logical when you look at the science of it. The many great things that happen in your body after you lift weights could never be achieved during a cardio session. Most importantly, cardio doesn’t build any muscle either. Let’s look at some research from 2012 that compared cardio to weight lifting.
The study titled “Effects of Aerobic Versus Resistance Exercise Without Caloric Restriction on Abdominal Fat, Intrahepatic Lipid, and Insulin Sensitivity in Obese Adolescent Boys” looked at 45 kids who were obese. Before the study began, they did a pretty significant workup of the group measuring everything they could. Something to take note of here in the insulin sensitivity in these boys.
Insulin in-sensitivity (resistance) and obesity are precursors to Type 2 Diabetes. Visceral fat is also something to note here to see how much fat mass they lost after the 3-month study concluded.
They separated these 45 boys into three groups: a cardio group, a weight lifting group, and a non-exercise group (control group). They counseled each boy with nutrition guidelines and adherence criteria. They wanted them to be taking in only the calories they needed with no deficit to show the efficacy of exercise on fat loss. They monitored the weight closely before each exercise session to make sure no drastic changes were taking place. They exercised 60 minutes 3 times per week. The control group were instructed to do what they normally would in their leisure time (which is not likely much since they were obese). The results were pretty awesome.
The weight lifting group lost the most body fat out of all 3 groups. Pretty much across the board, the weight lifting group had better markers and results. The only real place doing cardio outperformed weight lifting was an increase in VO2 max.
This study is just an example of the benefits that weight lifting has on your health in general. The study breaks this over-generalization that cardio is for fat loss and lifting weights is for building muscle. Something really great to point out is the increase in insulin sensitivity in the weight lifting group. That increase in sensitivity not only is going to help those boys process carbohydrates more effectively, but it will have a great impact on their health overall. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ever do any form of cardio. Combining a cardio regime into your weight lifting routine is great to speed up fat loss for the impatient people out there. If you’re solely relying on your cardio for fat loss, then just stop it. Please. The treadmills would likely appreciate the break.