You get to the gym have 45 minutes to do some strength work and squeeze in some cardio too. But which one should come first?

Well, there’s not really not just one answer. Experts agree that your priority in the gym depends on your personal goals. Someone aiming to lose weight, for instance, should take a different approach than someone training for a marathon. To help you figure out whether to hit the weights or the treadmill first, check out the following list of common workout goals and the recommendations for each.

To Maintain General Fitness – When it comes to just staying fit, it might not make a difference which comes first. In one study, two groups of men performed either strength training or cardio first for 24 weeks. At the end of the study, all of the men increased physical performance and muscular strength equally. In the short term however, those that did cardio first had a harder time recovering. In the two days following a workout, the cardio-first group demonstrated reduced concentrations of serum testosterone, which may be detrimental if looking to gain muscle strength.

But in general, “Do whatever you want—whatever you’re going to adhere to, whatever will fit into your schedule,” says Tony Musto, Ph.D., a fitness and exercise physiologist at the University of Miami. As Musto says, our ancestors’ “workouts” obviously weren’t as regimented as ours are today – “they did a mix: run and climb; then walk and then pick up something.”

To Simply Move More – Similarly, if you’re new to working out or just trying to be more active, do what you enjoy, and don’t be afraid to shake up the order. In Which Comes First: Cardio or Weights?, physicist Alex Hutchinson suggests mixing up the order of your workout or the type of workout you’re doing on different days. He writes that muscle and endurance gains are controlled in part by the same “master switch.” The “switch” gets set at the beginning of your workout—with whatever you do first—and can’t instantly change. Since you’re either setting up your body to improve endurance or to increase strength in a single session, it’s a good idea to switch things up.
There is also the option of doing a little bit of both and working harder in one workout. Combining your strength and cardio training has other positive metabolic benefits too, so if you’re short on time, these programs are worth looking into as well.

To Train for a Specific Event – Planning to run a marathon? Aiming for an Olympic-style weight lifting event? It may be obvious, but you’ve got to focus on your sport-specific requirements first and base your workouts on where you are in your season. Having an experienced professional in your sport(s) is recommended to help you create your workouts when training for a specific event.

To Lose Weight – Professionals have different views on this topic but most believe it’s probably smarter to do your weight training first and cardio second because you may oxidize a little more fat during the cardio portion of your workout. However, exercise physiologists stressed this only applied to lower intensity, steady-state cardio workouts and also noted it may not make a significant difference in the long run.

And good news for those of you who enjoy High Intensity Interval Training – these workouts have many benefits that can help with weight loss. The only thing is you can’t do it daily. Professionals suggest you keep your HIIT workouts to three times per week maximum on non-consecutive days (for instance, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays); and opt for cross-training—like a yoga, spin class or a low intensity workout if you want to workout additional days.

To Do More of What You Love – If you love running and can’t stand lifting weights, it’s probably best to do strength training first and save cardio as your “reward” at the end of the workout. Focus on what you would avoid if running short on time. The more activities you take part in the better health you will have and better athlete you will be. All components of fitness are important so get your least favorite exercise out of the way first and use your favorite activity as your “reward.”

The bottom line, If you’re going for general fitness and wellness, it probably doesn’t matter which you do first. Varying the order of your workout can be a great way to break up boredom but if you’re hoping to lose weight, gain strength, or just need to set a priority, focus on weight training first and cardio second.

No matter how you structure your workout, simply going to the gym is better than nothing!

11/2015 –