Many people who want to lose fat and change their body composition find themselves with a universal question – in order to maximize fat loss should I be focusing on cardio (also known as aerobic exercise) or resistance training (also known as anaerobic exercise)?

Aerobic Exercise 

Aerobic means “with oxygen,” or “in the presence of oxygen.” Aerobic training is low to moderate-intensity exercise that can be performed for an extended duration. It’s intended to work more than one muscle or muscle group at a time. Muscles need oxygen to function, and the increased muscle activity associated with aerobic exercise causes the body to supply more oxygen to the muscles in-use. This causes the heart and lungs to work harder, strengthening them and the entire cardiovascular system.

Anaerobic Exercise 

Anaerobic means “without oxygen”. Anaerobic exercise consists of quick and intense bursts of physical activity (e.g. weightlifting and sprints) where oxygen requirements surpass oxygen supply. Anaerobic exercise is fuelled by energy stored in your muscles through a process called glycolysis.



When it comes to a balanced all-round workout program, using both aerobic and resistance training to lose weight, maintain/increase lean muscle mass and promote a healthier lifestyle is the philosophy of modern-day training programs.

For a long time, cardio has been considered the best method for fat loss when it comes to overall body size. But, when there is a goal shift toward promoting lean body mass while achieving fat loss, it’s important to include resistance training as an equal priority. Many people believe that if you want to lose fat you should perform more aerobic exercise, and if you want to build muscle you should complete more resistance training. But, it’s not that simple…

Resistance training can play an important role in fat loss too! Studies have shown that after a resistance workout metabolism can be boosted for up to 38 hours. Plus, resistance training will enable you to build up a larger degree of lean muscle mass, which then serves as a calorie-burning powerhouse in your body.

As much as it’s been established that aerobic exercise is widely recommended as a means of weight control and fat loss, it’s also a universal renown fact that resistance exercise is an effective means of manipulating body composition.


The misconception 

Falling for the common misconception that aerobic training alone will be the most beneficial method for losing fat and obtaining a lean and toned body composition is purely a misguided approach. Ladies in particular (sad but true!) believe that because cardio burns more calories in less time (than weight training) that this approach will lead them to achieve the type of physiques seen in fitness magazines. This often contributes to the neglect of resistance training. The truth is that a large majority of uninformed people do not realise that both training methods have their place in a workout program.


Creating a toned physique 

If weight loss is your primary goal and time and health management is constrained, then aerobic training will be a great stepping-stone for increasing your fitness levels, burning calories  and decreasing fat mass. However, to achieve a sculpted look, adding resistance training to your routine is an important factor. Furthermore, this approach enables you to avoid shrinking into a smaller identical version of yourself. This is because aerobic training consumes all sources of energy, including muscle. Without resistance training to promote muscle growth and prevent it’s loss, muscle mass will gradually start to decrease.


When structuring a workout program it’s also important to consider the advantages of each training form and how these will impact your exercise and lifestyle goals. 

Benefits of Cardio 

  • Burns more calories in less time than resistance training.
  • A stronger heart.
  • Increased lung capacity.
  • Reduced risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
  • Better mental health (provides relief from depression and anxiety).
  • Decreased stress.
  • Improved sleep quality.
  • Increased aerobic endurance.


Benefits of Resistance Training

  • Transforms physique. 
  • Improved muscle strength and tone. 
  • The afterburn – resistance training allows for a higher caloric expenditure after a workout than that of a moderate aerobic session of the same length (this means that you will be burning more calories while being sedentary).
  • Metabolic function – building muscle increases your overall metabolism especially while resting and for longer periods after a resistance training session.
  • Improved mobility, flexibility and balance.
  • Decreased risk of injury.
  • Improved posture.
  • Increased bone density.
  • Enhanced performance of daily tasks.
  • Increased muscular endurance.



Both cardio and resistance training prove highly beneficial for fat loss and overall health. The fact is that while cardio burns more calories during a  workout, resistance training continues to burn calories even after the workout has been completed. Ultimately, the ideal exercise program for improving body composition, losing fat and bettering health, includes both cardio and resistance training, and of course largely factoring in diet and calorie intake as well.

What are your current exercise goals? Let me know in the comments below!

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