I’ve written a lot lately about the health benefits of exercise, and those many benefits are clearly more than enough reason to get out there and move! But, many people exercise for a completely different reason, which raises the question, can exercise help you lose weight? The answer to that question is more complex than it sounds and a recent study was able to answer it with a “Yes, but.”
Exercise has the ability to make actual changes to your body. Unlike the many “pills” that big pharma has come up with, exercise has few side effects. Studies have shown that exercise can lessen the risk of many chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and stress, as well as increase your life expectancy, lessen the effects of aging and knee arthritis, and even make positive changes to your genes! However, this new study looked specifically into what types exercise impact weight loss.
The study examined the effect of different types of exercise, on different types of body fat, on people in different weight categories. It included 348 young adults and studied them for one year. They were grouped into heavy, fat and obese categories by measuring their body mass index (BMI). Their fat mass and lean mass were measured every 3 months and at that same interval the participants reported how many minutes per week they engaged in aerobic exercise (cardio), resistance exercise, or other exercise. The results might surprise you. Aerobic exercise and exercise in general didn’t effect BMI. Resistance training was the one type of exercise which reduced fat and increased lean mass in participants with excess body fat. Why doesn’t cardio burn fat as effectively? The answer is that resistance training builds muscle mass, and it’s those larger muscles that burn the fat by increasing your metabolism. Think of your body as a car – bigger engines burn more fuel.
The upshot? Weight training burns fat, but depending on your size, health and physical condition, this can be anything from using ankle or hand weights, to weight resistance machines, to free weights. Importantly though, to be an effective exercise program, you need to add cardio as well. But if shedding pounds is the goal, hitting the gym to pump some iron seems to be the best way to go!