Lifting weights is better than cardio for weight loss, according to research

Resistance training helps you get stronger, but also helps burn calories and fat long after your workout

Woman working with dumbbells
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Working out is an integral part of any weight loss program, but should you invest your time in cardio or strength training? Most people pick running to drop pounds, and while it is beneficial to your health, there's growing evidence that resistance training may be the secret to effective weight loss. 

Fortunately, it's easy to get started as you can incorporate many of the best exercises for weight loss into your routine. The list includes a variety of weights-based moves to develop muscle and cardio exercises to elevate your heart rate.

One meta-analysis, a study of published research, looked at the effects of diet and exercise on weight loss. Specifically, the team wanted to explore whether diet, exercise, or diet and exercise combined was the most effective way to lose weight. 

As you might expect, the researchers found that combining dietary changes and exercise was best for weight loss. More interestingly was that the type of exercise you choose matters too. According to the study, resistance training resulted in the best outcomes. 

A set of dumbbells and bathroom scales

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Notably, a separate meta-analysis recently found that resistance training reduced body fat percentage by 1.46% and contributed to a reduction in total body fat mass. Participants exercised for up to an hour around three times per week for five months to achieve these results. 

You might find this surprising, as we're often encouraged to head out on a long run or join a exercise class if we want to lose fat. Conversely, resistance training is usually viewed as a way to gain weight by building muscle. However, this is also why it's an effective way to burn fat. 

Muscle size is crucial in our resting metabolic rate (RMR), the amount of energy used at rest. As our muscles grow, so does our RMR, allowing us to burn fat even when we're not exercising. Repairing muscle damage post-workout also burns calories long after you've finished an intense routine. 

The research also helped explore whether diet or exercise is more important for weight loss. The most significant effects were seen in those who combined dietary changes with an exercise program, particularly those following a resistance-based routine. 

If you're just starting on your weight loss journey, it's worth investing in a set of the best adjustable dumbbells. They come with removable weight plates, so you can start on a lower mass before gradually increasing the weight as you get stronger and more comfortable with the exercises. 

James Frew
Fitness Editor

James is a London-based journalist and Fitness Editor at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.

In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.