Running boosts metabolism more than strength training, new research finds

cardio better for metabolism

Whilst most runners will understand the physical and mental benefits of going for a run, there’s still an ongoing debate in the fitness world when it comes to cardio vs strength training. Our readers happily endure long runs when training for an event, yet others avoid cardio completely, choosing to spend their time lifting heavy weights in the gym. Yet which is better from a health point of view?

In the face of claims that strength training burns more calories, a new study has revealed cardio training offers more benefits when it comes to metabolism. Researchers at the University of Copenhagen examined the different levels of the metabolic hormone FGF21 after strength training and cardio to see how they compared.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation Insight, involved 10 healthy men, who were divided into two separate groups. Those in the cardio group completed one hour-long session a week on a bike, cycling at 70% VO2 max. The strength training group did one hour-long session of resistance exercises in a weights-based programme, targeting the main muscle groups in the body.

After completing the workouts, blood samples were taken at 15, 30, 60, 90, 120 and 180 minutes after exercise, looking at the levels of lactic acid, bile and blood sugar in the participant’s blood. These were compared to the samples taken before exercise.

The results found that those who had been cycling, or performing endurance exercise, experienced a significant increase in the production of the hormone FGF21, which has a positive effect on your metabolism. Those who did the strength training exercise showed no particular change in the production of the hormone. Boosting your metabolic rate can help promote weight loss, as the higher your metabolism the more calories you burn at rest.

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Co-author Christoffer Clemmensen says: “Of course it is very exciting for us researchers to see how different forms of physical activity actually affect the body differently.

“We have known about the effects of various forms of training on more well-known hormones like adrenalin and insulin for a long time, but the fact that strength training and cardio exercise affect FGF hormones different is new to us.

“The fact that we are able to increase the production ourselves through training is interesting.”