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What Is the Most Effective Combination of Exercise for Weight Loss?

The most common goal or exercise is usually to lose weight. Whether you want to look better, be healthier, or perform better, maintaining a healthy weight will be beneficial. But what is the most effective way to get there? Some people will say running, lifting, and some say both. It’s time-consuming and difficult to change your physique and choosing the most time efficient way will make working out more fun. Technically you can lose weight without doing any exercise, however, to achieve better fitness and health staying physically active is crucial. Maintaining strength and cardiovascular fitness will improve the quality of living and overall well-being.

What Is the Most Effective Combination of Exercise for Weight Loss?There are obvious benefits to both types of exercise. Cardiovascular training is great for improving your heart strength, keep the blood vessels healthy, increase endurance capacity, increase the body’s ability to use fat as fuel and etc. Improving your cardio will give you will simply give you more energy throughout the day.

Cardiovascular training includes movements that are continuous and lower intensity efforts that raise the heart rate such as jogging, running, biking, dancing, fast walking, rowing, jump roping, step-ups, swimming, and etc. You can also create a cardiovascular response by doing combining resistance exercises in a circuit format.

The benefits of resistance training are many and they include increased strength, helps maintain or increase lean mass, strengthen bones, increases resting energy expenditure (calories burned at rest) and so on. Losing weight without resistance training can have adverse effects on your muscle mass and muscles are extremely crucial for staying healthy and functional. Resistance training is also great for preventing falls and help maintain independence. Both resistance training and especially cardio have been shown to have positive effects on brain health. Resistance training includes body weight movements/calisthenics (push-ups, pull-ups, air squats, lunges), lifting in machines (leg press, leg extensions, cable machines), and free weights (dumbbells, barbells). Before starting an exercise program make sure that you are lifting with proper form and starting with weights that are very manageable.

Most types of exercises are beneficial for fitness, however, weight loss is not guaranteed from exercise alone. The nutrition part will have a larger impact on weight loss or gain compared to exercise. To ensure the most success there needs to be a concerted effort to exercise regularly as well as improving your nutrition.

As you can see there are many pros to both types of exercise but which one or combination is the best to use for weight loss? Let’s look at a few studies that examine the results from aerobic training, resistance training, or both and see what the results are.

  1. The first study looked at the effects aerobic, resistance or combination training had on patients suffering from type-2 diabetes. Combination training means that the group performed both lifting as well as cardio exercises.  The study included 251 adults aging from 39-71years old. Body composition (fat mass versus muscle mass) of the subjects were closely measured to see which exercise was the most efficient. The researchers conclude that either aerobic exercise or resistance training has beneficial effects on body composition. This is great news as it allows you to choose an activity that you find the most enjoyable. The group that saw the most improvement was the combination group that performed both aerobic exercise as well as resistance training. This could be due to the fact that this group performed the most amount of exercise compared to the other groups.

  2. Study number 2 was performed on teenagers from the age of 14-18 years old who were obese. 304 teens participated and they were assigned to either do nothing, train aerobically, resistance train, or do both. The researchers measured body composition, circumference, and weight loss. This study showed similar results as the first study. Aerobic training alone helped with weight loss and so did resistance training. Combining the two types of exercise produced the greatest weight loss for the participants. Researchers conclude that -”Combined aerobic and resistance exercise training tended to be superior to aerobic training alone in decreasing percentage body fat, waist circumference, and BMI.”

  3. A third study with a similar setup was conducted in Australia with 66 obese female participants that were 40-66 years old. The neat thing about this study was that the time spent exercising was the same for all groups. They either lifted weights for 30min, ran for 30min, or they lifted for 15min and ran for 15min. This study also showed just like the previous one the combined training produced the most significant weight loss.

The changes are not hugely different, however, it seems like doing both aerobic exercise as well as resistance training has a more beneficial effect compared to doing only cardio or lifting. All types of exercises had positive effects and you should choose a routine or program that you find the most enjoyable. Consistency is the key to long-term success and you should be able to see yourself exercising in a similar way for many years to come. If you have never done resistance training or cardio before go see a fitness professional and give it a try.

What Is the Most Effective Combination of Exercise for Weight Loss?Now we have established that combination is great but what about the order? Should you lift before your cardio exercise or after? Resistance training quickly followed (less than 20 min) by conditioning has been shown to increase the amount of fat burned during the cardio training. A study examining the percentage of fat that was used during exercise showed that it was the highest with resistance training+cardio (short break) compared to cardio+resistance and or resistance+cardio (long break in between the two). This set-up also allows for the exerciser to be more energized for the resistance training which could help improve lifting form and decrease the risk of injury. This could be a time effective way to structure your exercise and it can be implemented in a beginner program with a low equipment need.





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Oscar Isacsson, M.S., CSCS

Oscar Isacsson, M.S., CSCS

Director of Training and Head Coach at CrossFit TNT
M.S Human Performance from Lindenwood University

B.S. Exercise Science from Lindenwood University

Started CrossFit in 2010.

Favorite thing about what I do:

To help and see people improve their fitness and confidence


Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist by the National Strength and Conditioning Association

CF L1 Coach

CF L2 Coach

CF Endurance

CF Weightlifting

CF Mobility

CF Gymnastics

USAW Sports Performance Coach & club coach

CPR Certified
Oscar Isacsson, M.S., CSCS

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