Metabolic management is at the forefront of many minds when joining a gym. Maintaining a healthy metabolism and weight will ensure your mind and body stay well balanced and function efficiently to survive and thrive through all sorts of emotional and physical stress. Diet is the most important factor in weight distribution, but exercise and its myriad of physiological benefits are a close second with regard to metabolic maintenance and body composition.

When it comes to exercise, we often wonder what type will give us the most “bang for buck” or is best suited to our goals and health conditions. While the most important aspect of building an exercise habit is doing what you enjoy, different modalities provide various benefits. To be clear, ANY exercise is intentional and constructive “stress” on the body and jumpstarts important metabolic processes to help us function more fully in all aspects of life. How you choose to exercise should be based on preference, convenience, availability, and lifestyle. That being said, continue reading as we explore the difference between cardio and resistance training benefits for healthy weight management.

Let’s start with cardio

Simply put, cardio is crazy good for you. No matter what form, maintaining an elevated heart rate will improve your health and quality of life. (Check out this post to learn about the benefits of cardio for your brain!) Everyone should incorporate some form of cardio into their exercise routine. Simply put, the higher the intensity of cardio, the more calories burned. If you perform a light jog for 30 minutes you’ll burn less than if you ran at a more moderate pace for that same amount of time. You can also increase metabolic demand by using the arms and legs for cardio – think rowing vs. walking or the Airdyne bike vs regular cycling. You have the potential to burn more calories within a timed session of cardio than in a session of weight training.

So what’s with resistance training?

Resistance (weight) training builds more muscle than cardio and even at rest, muscle burns more calories than fat. Therefore, building muscle is crucial to increase your resting metabolic rate. While the metabolic boost won’t be solely responsible for shedding pounds, lifting weights has another important benefit. Resistance training increases your metabolism hours after your workout – something not achieved with cardio alone. So you lift weights in the morning, by afternoon you’re still burning more calories than if you had completed a cardio session of the same duration. It’s also important to note that resistance training — strengthening the muscles and increasing muscle mass — is what helps keep you strong and injury-free during bouts of cardio.

But of course, it’s more complicated than that. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) can incorporate both weights and cardio over short, sprint-like intervals. This dramatically elevates the heart rate while also providing the stimulus for increasing muscle mass. And because of the short duration of HIIT-style workouts, you get some serious bang for your buck. Unsure how to begin? Our Quick Hitter workouts are a great place to start.

A combination is best

All things considered, building exercise habits that incorporate both cardio and weight sessions — along with mobility work — is best for overall health and longevity. For some, this may help introduce variety and achieve adherence, for others this may seem overwhelming and all together unappealing. It’s most important to perform at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week – no matter the type. The more physically active you are, the better your chance is to maintain or lose weight. However, if your diet is composed of excessive amounts highly processed/nutrient-poor food, then losing weight through exercise alone will be futile and frustrating.

Putting it all together

Let us emphasize: the best workout is the one you actually complete. A combination of diet, cardio, weight training, and mobility work is best to achieve optimal health and weight loss, at any stage of life. And all movement will help to boost your mood, introduce intentional micro-stressors, and better prepare your body for whatever life throws your way.


Hyatt Training is a collective of certified, enthusiastic and innovative personal trainers in Portland, Oregon. Get in touch with us by emailing