A huge proportion of girls avoid weights at the gym at all costs for fear of getting over muscly and butch. Or there's those of us who avoid them purely because of the macho guys continuously loitering around the machines making any girl who wonders into their territory feel slightly out of place! The big question for female fitness fanatics is cardio or weight training? In the battle of fat burning workouts which comes out as top dog?
On a minute by minute basis, cardio burns more calories than weight training making it the fast track to weight loss. However, a huge benefit of weight training over cardio is that it builds muscle. This makes you slimmer and leaner then you would be at the same weight if your exercise routine had been 100% cardio. One study found that a group of dieters lost 21lbs irregardless of whether they performed cardio exercise or strength training. Unfortunately for the cardio group, around 6lbs of this came from muscle whereas those doing weight training lost almost pure fat (Fetters 2013)! A combination of cardio and weight lifting then would ensure that a high number of calories were burnt but equally, that it is fat not muscle which is lost! Weight training will help you look and feel better in those crop tops and high waisted shorts than if you take the cardio only route.
Furthermore, simply having muscle in your body increases your metabolism consequently burning more calories. This effect isn't only present when exercising but continues after exercise has finished so even activities such as standing or sitting in front of the tv will burn more calories with muscle than fat! This is great news for anyone trying to lose weight as it means that your BMR will increase and the calories you eat are more likely to be used for energy as opposed to stored as fatty tissue in your body. One study found that 1kg of muscle burns 50 extra calories a day in comparison with 1kg of fat which only burnt 3 (Hawkey as cited in Harris)! Cardio, whilst effective for burning calories, doesn't have this same benefit on the metabolism. Moreover, it's unlikely to make a huge change to your overall body shape or leanness unless combined with some weight training!
Scarily, fat isn't just external but can grow around your internal organs and even in your bones. This can be hugely detrimental to health. In other words, you may look skinny after weight loss but that doesn't mean there isn't still visceral fat circulating inside your body damaging your liver and other vital organs! Even more scary is the fact that it is visceral fat, not the fat we can see, which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, liver damage, heart disease and high blood pressure among other things! It is therefore a health threat which cannot be ignored!One study in the UK found that more than half of those studied with a normal BMI had excessive deposits of far around their heart and liver as well as streaked through their muscles! Consequently, fitness shouldn't just be about weight loss but lowering your body fat percentage. Weight training certainly trumps cardio here as it specifically burns fat whilst maintaining muscle; it will not just make you lose weight but help to reduce that dangerous visceral fat which puts your health at risk! The solution, make sure to include weight training in every work out you do in order to ensure you are not just losing weight but losing fat!
Cardio is still incredibly important to not just weight loss but health in general. Getting active and getting fit is not just about weight loss but about that overall fitness factor. Cardio exercise enables your lungs to process more oxygen with less effort, improves the rate the heart pumps blood at and increases supply of blood to the muscle. It thus reduces the risk of heart disease and vastly improves our respiratory systems. Furthermore, cardio exercise has been linked to a reduced risk of stress, anxiety and depression and an improved immune system putting you less at risk of physical illnesses such as colds and flu as well! For anyone looking to make a healthy, permanent lifestyle change, rather than just a diet then, cardio must be incorporated into the workout routine. The best benefits to fitness will come with a combination of cardio and weight training on a daily basis.
Don't worry girls, you don't have enough testosterone in your body to get butch without taking steroids or other supplements! The health benefits of weight training however, cannot be ignored! We therefore, need to ensure that we brave that masculine arena to venture into the weight machines to truly reap the awards of our fitness efforts!
(Credit to my lovely friend Emma Dean for these photos of me at the gym! Visit her beauty blog: http://dinosbeautydiary.blogspot.co.uk/ )
Much credit to my personal trainer Danny for giving me the foundation of this knowledge: http://ddsfitness.co.uk/