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Weightlifting or Cardio: What’s the Best Method for a Person with Diabetes to Lose Weight?

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Managing or preventing Type 2 diabetes almost always involves losing weight. In fact, more than 90 percent of people with Type 2 diabetes are either overweight or obese. In general, weight loss follows a simple formula: Calories burned must exceed calories consumed.

But what exercise method is best for losing weight – weightlifting or cardio? Let’s examine the options.

Benefits of Cardio 

Cardiovascular exercises, such as brisk walking, swimming, dancing and stair climbing, raise the heart rate and quickly burn calories. 
A 154-pound person, for example, burns:

  • 280 calories per hour walking moderately fast
  • 510 calories per hour swimming
  • 330 calories per hour dancing
  • 590 calories per hour bicycling (more than 10 mph) 

A 2012 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that aerobic activity is the optimal method of exercise to reduce fat and body mass.

Benefits of Weightlifting

The benefits of cardio exercise are expanded when weightlifting – also known as resistance training – is added to the routine, since it increases calorie-burning muscle mass. The more muscle you have in your body, the more calories you’ll burn at rest, even when not exercising. 

Weightlifting includes using:

  • Free weights such as dumbbells or barbells
  • Weight machines that let you choose increasingly higher loads
  • Resistance bands, which act like giant rubber bands to provide continuous resistance when moving
  • Your own body weight, which helps build muscle when doing push-ups, chin-ups or sit-ups 

Doing these tasks repeatedly builds muscle.

In the end, a combination of cardio and weightlifting is the best weight loss strategy for people with diabetes, and current guidelines from the American Diabetes Association and other national groups advise a combination for optimal health benefit. 

People with diabetes should check with their doctor before beginning any exercise and/or weight loss regimen.