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Short on time? Aerobic, not resistance, exercise best for weight & fat loss

A new study has found that when it comes to weight and fat loss, aerobic training is better than resistance training.

The study involved a total of 234 previously sedentary overweight or obese males and females, age 18-70 years of age, who were enrolled in one of three eight-month supervised protocols: aerobic training (AT), resistance training (RT) or a combination (AT/RT). Of the total, 119 participants completed the trials and had complete data for the variables of interest in the article.

Those assigned to aerobic training exercised vigorously, at about 70-85% of maximum heart rate. They exercised for approximately 45 minutes, three days per week throughout the study period.

Individuals assigned to resistance training also exercised three days a week, completing three sets of 8-12 reps on eight resistance machines that targeted all major muscle groups. Resistance was increased throughout the study to maintain a steady level of challenge as the participants gained strength.

Individuals who were assigned to AT/RT performed all the exercises assigned to both AT and RT groups. At the end of study each enrollee was assessed for weight, body composition, waist circumference, cardiopulmonary fitness and strength compared to their baseline.

The researchers found:

• The groups assigned to AT and AT/RT lost more weight than those that did RT only. In fact, those who did resistance training only actually gained weight due to an increase in lean body mass.

• Fat mass and waist circumference significantly decreased in the AT and AT/RT groups, but were not altered in RT. However, measures of lean body mass significantly increased in RT and AT/RT, but not in AT. The finding suggest that aerobic exercise is more effective in reducing these measures.

• Lean body mass increased with both RT and AT/RT, but not AT. Having the benefit to of both modes of exercise allowed AT/RT to decrease body fat percent significantly more than either AT or RT due to decreased fat mass combined with increased lean body mass.

The conclusion here is that If increasing muscle mass and strength is your goal, then resistance training is required. If, however, you desire weight and fat loss then the best option, given limited time for exercise, is to focus on aerobic training. When you lose fat, it is likely you are losing visceral fat, the reduction of which is associated with cardiovascular and other health benefits.

Willis L H et al., 2012, Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults. Journal of Applied Physiology, 113 (12): 1831 DOI:10.1152/japplphysiol.01370.2011

Categories: Sport & Exercise, Weight Management