Cardio vs weights? Personal trainer reveals best exercise for you

PUBLISHED:Aug 04, 2015 | UPDATED:01:19 PM, Aug 04, 2015

It’s the age old question – when trying to get fit and lose weight, do we weight train or do cardio?  

The debate is a constant one: what should we as women do in the gym?

The first rule is to trust your body, do not over train but be prepared to push yourself.

The second rule, enjoy yourself, exercise is not supposed to be a chore.

Be conscientious, perfect your form and enjoy your journey and changing body.

Writing for Healthista, personal trainer Grace Lavinia said in her job she sees women slaving away for hours using cardio machines.

Here she explores all you need to know about cardio versus weight training...

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with cardio machines but what results are you really hoping to achieve?

Could you jog outside or go for a brisk walk in the fresh air, with your family and friends.

I want women to see exercise as a daily, social activity that makes them happier and healthier, not a relentless and boring chore.

Personal trainer Grace Lavinia explores all you need to know about cardio versus weight training (file image posed by model)



Every month, set clear goals in your diary about what you want to achieve.

Post them at the beginning of the week and never lose sight of them.

Keeping to a routine is one of the hardest parts of exercising and precise goal setting is a quick way to make sure you never lose sight.

When setting goals be specific, use times, weights, inspiration and anything else to keep your mind on track.

Really work out what it is you want to achieve, whether it be competing in a challenge, having fun with your family or fitting back into your favourite dress.

The big question is what to do, to achieve your desired goals. It is not always about speed – health is your investment and fitness is a balance of strength, endurance and flexibility, not only weight loss.

So many women lose weight but still do not feel confident in their bodies.

A lower number on the scales isn’t always the way forward when striving to feel confident and happy.

What will make you feel happy is a strong body that enables you to do all daily tasks with ease.



If you love cardio, continue, but change it up.

Cardio can put lots of strain on your joints from impact, so stick to lower impact types like swimming and cycling to reduce the stress on your knees, especially if you’re new to exercise.

Cardio will increase your cardiovascular fitness, which is vital for a healthy heart and lungs.

Classes are a great and social way to incorporate cardio into your routine – spinning is a great fat busting class.

Stick to lower impact types of cardio like swimming and cycling to reduce the stress on your knees, especially if you’re new to exercise


Steady speed low intensity training is great for weight loss. This could be a 35-40 minute steady paced jog.

Fat requires oxygen to be broken down so, a low steady sustainable speed allows your body to intake enough oxygen to break down fat and burn calories.

Cardio will burn fat and yes you will lose weight, but you may just look like a smaller version of your current self.

This is because, cardio has been found to also burn muscle as energy – not good news as you get older as age leads to a degree of natural muscle loss anyway.

It is with weight training where the real transformation will be seen.



Resistance or weight training should be implemented into your schedule at least two times a week.

If you’re unsure on where to start most gyms offer beginner classes or there will be plenty of staff more than happy to show you the ropes.

Squats and dead lifts are the most fundamental exercises to master.

They will give you the toned, strong look that so many women strive for.

Please do not think with this style you will build too much muscle – keep your weights low and your reps high (about 10 reps before reaching your max – meaning, when you can’t do anymore) and make sure you complete four sets of each exercise.

If you do not have a gym membership, do not worry, body weight exercises will help and be creative about home made weights.

Resistance or weight training should be implemented into your schedule at least two times a wee


For example, use a two litre bottle of water, a heavy book or anything else easy to pick up and non-dangerous at home.

Our bodies are made to help us in daily life, train in your own safe way and focus on what will make that easier.

Join classes in the freestyle area of the gym and work out what specific things you want to find easier.

Try to make all the exercises you do multi-directional.

For example, if you do a forward lunge with a weight on your back, also do it backwards and sideways.

Our bodies are so used to moving forwards, you may be surprised how much harder (and more effective) it is, moving in a different direction to that you’re used to.



Cardio does burn more calories than weights while you’re doing it.

But here’s the magic – with weight training the calorie-burning effect continues long after you have stopped exercising.

This is because muscle is a metabolic furnace, it burns calories even when you’re doing nothing whereas fat is inert.

It takes so much energy to repair your muscle fibres and this is done by excessive oxygen consumption to equal the original deficit caused by exercise.

Your muscles have worked far too hard for your body to even consider burning muscle for energy.

This effect will increase your metabolic rate for up to 40 hours after exercise.

Cardio does burn more calories than weights while you’re doing it. But with weight training the calorie-burning effect continues long after you have stopped exercising


Still not convinced about the positive and enhancing effects of weight training?

Research has shown that between the ages of 30 – 50 you’ll likely lose 10 per cent of your bodies total muscle.

Weight training will counter balance that natural effect and keep you looking stronger and feeling better for longer.

In other words, the more muscle in your body as you get older, the better your metabolism will be overall, better keeping middle aged spread at bay.

Weight training also helps with bone density.

When you age your bone density decreases leading to a higher risk of osteoporosis and increasing the likelihood of a fracture.

Weight training increases the amount of osteocalcin, a bone growth marker found in your blood.

It may be that at a particular point in time you want to work on legs, arms or your core.

Use that as motivation for a finisher exercise, that point when you think you’re done working out.

By squeezing in three to four minutes of focused exercises on that body part, you will really feel the burn and that burn normally means visible results will quickly be seen.

A final point to note is a middle ground between cardio and weights, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).

If you don’t have time for an hour of exercise, a 15-minute body weight HIIT session, may be for you.

It is a series of body weight exercises at a high intensity – as much as you can manage for 30 seconds and then take 30 seconds off.

This will raise your heart rate right up and burn plenty of calories, it will also tone your muscles.

I recommend a mixture of weight training, cardio and HIIT training to reach most women’s goals of weight loss and strength building.

Even if your goal isn’t weight loss, its a great way to have fun, keep it interesting and obtain a healthy lifestyle.

My main recipe for success has been a clean, plant-based diet, regular exercise that I plan a week in advance that I only cancel if I absolutely must.

I book in my exercise sessions much like I would meeting a friend or going to an exhibition – you wouldn’t cancel on a friend so why cancel on the gym – it something I find so exhilarating and fun.

If your diet is not right then it will be almost impossible to achieve your goals.

Make sure you are eating a balanced clean diet with the occasional cheat, to make the best of all your hard work.



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