Cardio vs. weight training

In an ongoing series on health, nutrition and becoming a better you, Modern Mississauga has teamed up with local fitness and health enthusiast Julie Cropper to provide tips, advice and inspiration to help you become the best you possible. Got a question for Julie? Send it to

You spend hours on the treadmill running and running and don’t shed a pound, and then wonder if you should do more cardio or weight training to lose weight. This is a question almost everyone asks when they decide they want to loose weight. It seems that half the fitness industry focuses on the treadmill and the other half tells you to go with weights. Which approach is best?

Over the course of my fitness journey, I’ve learned the importance of incorporating weight training into a routine if it’s a “toned” body you’re looking for. Now don’t get me wrong - cardio is still extremely beneficial. It assists with fat loss and it improves heart and lung health. I truly enjoy my weekly runs as it’s a part of my balanced exercise and health routine. However, don’t expect cardio to transform your body into that lean, athletic physique you’re looking for. Without weight training, you won’t develop improved posture, gain strength, and build muscle.   

I find that too many people are focused on how many calories they burn when they’re at the gym. My strongest suggestion is that you start focusing on how your body burns calories outside the gym once your workout is done. With steady cardio exercise, you do burn calories. But once you stop, you quickly go back to your normal metabolic rate and stop burning calories.

At first, it was difficult for me to understand why running on the treadmill wasn’t really working for me. I was putting hours in a week, sweating and feeling good. But I quickly learned that strength training will not only help burn calories during your workout, but for hours after. This is called the “after burn” effect. The more intense your workout is, the greater the after burn effect will be. Your body has to work extra hard to replenish it’s oxygen stores, and is working to cool down, recover and deal with the hormonal changes. We want to maximize the time our bodies spend in this “zone.” It can last anywhere from 15 minutes to 48 hours, depending on the intensity of your workout.

I encourage everyone to try weights and don’t fear them. Begin your strength training slowly and try lifting heavier weights as you go. You can’t expect 3 lb dumbbells to make a difference if the groceries you carry are heavier. Include compound movements - exercises that work on multiple muscle groups - and challenge yourself a little more each time. Move faster, don’t rest as long between sets, increase your reps, and choose heavier weights if you can (without causing any injury). When doing your cardio workout, make the best of it by incorporating sprints and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).   

The combination of both cardio and weight training is the perfect recipe for fat loss, strength gains and of course, a smokin’ body. And remember, it doesn’t happen overnight but it doesn’t take forever either. It truly is a process that I’ve learned to enjoy and love. 

Julie has a passion for health and fitness and is on a mission to help others be the best they can be at any age. Follow her on Instagram @julescropper.