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Cardio versus strength: Which is the best exercise?

Cardio versus strength training. Which is the best for weight loss, fitness and toning?
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Multi-tasking

For maximum benefits, both types of exercise should be carried out regularly. However, that doesn't mean you have to do one or the other, says Gavin.

"It is possible to do both at the same time and this is called metabolic conditioning. Combining cardio and strength exercise is a very effective fitness and fat loss tool."

The good news is that metabolic conditioning workouts are much shorter because of their intensity.

He warns though that "metabolic conditioning is hard work and perhaps not for exercise beginners".

Metabolic conditioning is training your body to work at a high intensity for a short period of time. Any intense work you do for up to seconds will be of this nature. This is then followed by a short recovery period before you repeat several times.

"There has been a lot of research done on weight training versus cardio and most experiments show weight training to be better for fat loss and short sharp bursts of high intensity cardio to be better than steady state cardio," says Victoria.

Gillian Reeves, Virgin Active's national group exercise manager says: "At the moment the fitness trend is towards shorter more high intensity workouts where you push yourself a bit harder but not for as long."

The after effect

Another plus to strength training is that your body is still burning calories when you're sitting on the sofa watching TV after your workout!

"This type of exercise often causes you to burn more calories after the session has finished, unlike the slow boring cardio that most people do," according to Victoria.

"After all types of exercise you will burn calories," says Gillian. "With strength training you are switching on more of your muscle fibres and raising your metabolism so there's more active tissue in your body."

Victoria says it pays to work hard as calories are needed to repair the muscles after a tough workout - therefore you are burning more calories - even on the days you don't even go to the gym!

Weights don't mean big and butch

The experts say you need to use a bit of weight if you want to lose a bit of weight.

"Guys always lose more weight in training than girls because they lift heavy and work hard," Victoria says. "So many women are afraid to be strong for fear of getting big muscles. Let me tell you now that the weaker you are, the fatter you are likely to be.

"Women don't have the levels of required to get bulky, so the sooner we stop being worried about being judged in the gym and start working out properly the better."

"It's not all about lifting weights - strength training can be using your own body as resistance or bits of kit," says Gillian. "I get worried when I see someone doing pure cardio every day, pounding the treadmill - it breaks your body down."

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