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Calorie Burn Comparison: Cardio vs Weightlifting

Abby Graham
July 21, 2022

Cardio vs Weightlifting? What burns more calories 

If you are trying to lose weight, cardio and weightlifting are great options to help keep you on track and burn some extra calories (as well as a bunch of other health related benefits that we will go over below). But let’s just talk about calories.

Calories burnt during each of these types of workouts come in different forms.


Research shows that cardio will burn more calories per session then weightlifting workouts of the same duration.  The number of calories you burn during exercise depends a variety of factors including age, weight, gender and workout intensity.

Benefits to Cardio:

  1. Improves cardiovascular health
  2. Lowers blood pressure
  3. Helps regulate blood sugar
  4. Aids in Sleep


These workouts help you burn more calories throughout the day. There’s a two-fold explanation for this. First, research has shown that after you weightlift, a person can continue to burn calories from that strength session up to 38 hours post session. Some call this the “afterburn”. The afterburn is additional energy your body expends after you’ve finished exercising. The technical term, Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), helps explain the extra calorie burn. After a workout, your body uses oxygen and calories to remove lactic acid, repair muscles, and replenish stores of creatine, oxygen, and adenosine triphosphate (ATP). It’s during this recovery period that the afterburn effect takes place.

The second way weightlifting helps burn calories is that it builds muscle and muscle burns more calories at rest then other tissues, including fat.  Increases to your muscle mass help to increase your BMR (basal metabolic rate) or the amount of calories you burn at rest. On average, 1lb of muscle burns 6 calories daily compared to fat burning only 2 calories per pound per day.

Let’s look at that in the short term and the long term. A 150lb female that has 70lb of muscle will burn 420lbs calories a day. That’s 153,300 calories per year!  In comparison, a 150lb female that has 50lbs of muscle would burn 109,500 calories per year.

That’s around 12-13lbs per year difference in calories simply for having more muscle.

Benefits to Weightlifting:

  1. Builds strength and stamina
  2. Strengthens joints, ligaments and tendons
  3. Increases Bone Density
  4. Elevates your mood and reduces stress
  5. Increases Confidence
  6. Reduces your risk for injury


It depends! Although we recommend a mix for most of our clients it really depends on your goals and your interest. The best program is the one you stick to!

At Thrive, we offer various class types that help individuals that are trying to achieve all types of goals. Our ThriveFit class incorporates weightlifting and cardio to help you achieve the best results for both weight loss and muscle gain. We also offer a bootcamp and spin class that will give you an extra BURN to help shed fat fast.

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