Cardiovascular workouts and weightlifting are two types of exercise that differ in intensity, duration, and the groups of muscles that they use. They also burn calories in different ways.
Cardiovascular exercise (cardio) is a form of aerobic activity. It increases breathing rate, burns calories quickly, and improves overall endurance. Examples of aerobic exercise include cycling, dancing, jogging and running, and swimming.
The ACSM defines anaerobic exercise as intense physical activity of short duration that uses fuel from energy sources within the contracting muscles rather than relying on inhaled oxygen. Lifting weights and sprinting are both examples of anaerobic exercise.
Strength training, including weightlifting, helps people gain muscle, which speeds up metabolism and burns more fat in the long term.
Cardio generally has less prolonged aftereffects on muscle gain and metabolism than lifting weights. Cardio does have long-lasting effects on the overall cardiovascular system and heart hearth.
In many studies, experts use “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption” (EPOC) to measure this effect. EPOC refers to the amount of oxygen that the body requires to return to its pre-exercise or resting state.
For example, researchers working on a
Lifting weights usually leads to higher EPOC levels than cardio, resulting in more significant muscle breakdown. This means that the body continues to burn calories even after completing a weightlifting workout.
A 2018 study looking at the effect of resistance training in sedentary adult women found that this activity, which includes weightlifting, elevated the participants’ overall basal metabolic rate (BMR) for up to 48 hours. The BMR is the number of calories that the body burns at rest.
- jogging or sprinting
- competitive sports, such as football, basketball, and soccer
- jumping rope
- inline skating or rollerblading at a fast speed
- cross-country skiing
- swimming laps
For example, riding a stationary bicycle at a moderate pace for 30 minutes may burn between 210 and 294 calories depending on a person’s body weight. Cross-country skiing for 30 minutes may burn between 198 and 293 calories depending on a person’s body weight.
Online calculators can help a person establish how many calories they burn, taking their weight and physical activity of choice into account.
In general, weightlifting for 30 minutes can burn between 90 and 126 calories, depending on a person’s body weight. Vigorous weight lifting for 30 minutes may burn between 180 to 252 calories, depending on a person’s body weight.
For example, the Calorie Burn Rate Calculator outlines various calorie burn counts depending on body weight and the type and intensity of physical activity.
Similarly, the Omni Calculator uses the activity type and duration to estimate the total number of calories that a person burns. It also helps predict how much weight a person can expect to lose.
Another useful calorie calculator is Cornell University’s METS to Calories Calculator. The term MET refers to “Metabolic Equivalent of Task,” or metabolic equivalent. This calculator works out the number of calories that a person burns by assessing their body weight, activity level (METS), and the duration of the physical activity.
The ACSM guidelines for exercise state that people should aim to do 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week, and two strength training sessions per week.
Regardless of their chosen form of exercise, people can use the following safety tips to help make sure that they maximize the effectiveness of their workout:
- Take 5 to 10 minutes to warm up and cool down by doing stretches.
- Make gradual increases in physical activity, especially if not very physically active.
- Rest between strenuous workouts, and do not exercise too much if feeling faint or ill.
- Do not rush to lift heavy weights. Correct form and strength building take time, so start with light weights to master the techniques.
- Be careful when exercising in hot, humid conditions as this can lead to severe dehydration. Spend time slowly getting acclimated to the heat.
- Stop exercising if signs of overheating occur, such as a headache, dizziness, nausea, cramps, or heart palpitations.
- Wear clothes and shoes that are suitable for the type of physical activity.
Both cardio and weightlifting exercises have advantages and disadvantages, and their benefits and effects vary between people.
Evidence shows that lifting weights burns more fat and has more promising long-term results. However, the type of exercise that is better for a person ultimately depends on that person’s goals, physical fitness, and capabilities.
Most experts recommend a combination of the two for overall health and fitness.