Resistance Training versus Cardio

I get a lot of questions about what is more important: resistance training or cardio? Is it better to do cardio before or after resistance training or on alternate days?

Let me say one thing right up front: Both cardio and resistance training should be part of your exercise routine because they are important for different reasons.

Female running athlete. Woman trail runner sprinting for success

Cardio is great for your heart and should be part of your regular exercise routine. The American Heart Association recommends doing cardio for at least 30 minutes on most days to maintain heart health. That said, I believe that too many people rely exclusively on cardio as their fitness and weight loss program.

Woman Exercise With Kettle Bell - Crossfit Workout

Resistance training, in my opinion, is the foundation of any exercise program and I will tell you why. Unlike cardio, resistance training not only burns calories while exercising but also after. Resistance training done for about 30 minutes causes metabolic rate to increase by 150 calories over the 12 hours post-exercise. But that’s not all…the real benefit comes from the added muscles that resistance training builds. For every pound of muscle you put on, you can burn 30-50 calories more per day.

It’s simple math: Resistance training burns up more calories per minute, helps maintain muscle mass, and continues to burn up calories at a higher rate post-exercise; it builds and stimulates muscle, which in turn builds and stimulates metabolism.

Now, to the timing question: there is research indicating that it’s more efficient to do cardio in the morning and more research showing better results in the evening. If that doesn’t confuse you, let me throw another tidbit of research your way: some newer research has shown added benefits of doing cardio after resistance training because the fat-burning benefits are at a high 15 minutes after resistance training. So what’s best?

Best is to actually do it, regardless of when.

The moral of the story

Use resistance training as your foundation for any fitness program and use cardio for support and to keep you heart healthy. Don’t worry about the timing….Just do it!

Stay happy and healthy

-Dr. Maria


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