Weight training burns fat as well as aerobic exercise, on the right diet
A weight loss journey might look markedly different for different people, and studies are continuing to turn up valuable insights into ways exercise regimes can be tailored to the individual. The latest findings in this area come from a team at Australia's Edith Cowan University, who have shown that when combined with the right diet, resistance training such as body-weight exercises or lifting dumbbells can have similar effects to aerobic exercise when it comes to burning fat.
When we think of workout programs designed to drive weight loss it seems natural to picture folks jumping on the bike or going on long grueling runs. The trouble isn't just that these workouts are unappealing for the obvious reasons, but that their repetitive nature can cause stress on the body and lead to injury. The authors of the study highlight the need for alternative routes to reduce body fat in overweight subjects.
“This group may be uncomfortable by the prospect of 30 or 40 minutes on a treadmill or a bicycle,” said lead researcher Pedro Lopez. “They can injure knees, joints, ligaments and more because they have to carry their whole body weight during a lot of aerobic exercises.”
Lopez and his colleagues conducted a review of existing literature on the effects of resistance-based exercise programs on body fat in obese and overweight subjects across their lifespan. This meta-analysis looked at data on 114 different trials, and enabled the team to compare how resistance and aerobic training impacted on things like body fat percentage, fat distribution and lean muscle mass, when combined with a healthy diet.
Out of this came some interesting conclusions that may run counter to conventional wisdom around weight loss. Perhaps least surprising was the finding that resistance training was an effective way to build and maintain muscle mass. More surprising was the finding that resistance training and caloric restriction confers comparable benefits for weight loss to aerobic training and caloric restriction.
“Usually when we talk about obesity, body composition or weight loss, we only hear about aerobic exercise,” said Lopez. “This paper shows we can use resistance training and achieve meaningful effects with a diet based on caloric reduction. We can reduce body fat percentage, whole-body fat mass, body weight and BMI. If you’re comparing the literature, these effects are similar to aerobic exercise with caloric restriction in adults who are overweight or obese.”
The study builds on another interesting piece of research we looked at last year that investigated the weight loss effects of resistance training. That research showed how it can alter the metabolism by instructing cells to enter fat-burning mode.
Together, these types of findings demonstrate that for people unable to undertake aerobic exercise, hitting the gym could be a useful alternative. The scientists do stress, however, that no matter what exercise we do, if we don't have the healthy diet to match then it's unlikely to make much difference to our waistlines.
“If you want to lose weight, you have to reduce your calorie intake," said Lopez.
The research was published in the journal Obesity Reviews.
Source: Edith Cowan University