Lose Fat by Lifting Weights

Strength training was more effective than cardio for preventing abdominal fat gain

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) The right exercise regimen could help combat those extra inches around your midsection.

A recent study looked at whether aerobic or strength training exercise was best for preventing abdominal fat gain.

After comparing the exercise habits and waist measurements of men over 40, researchers found that strength training was tied to being fitter around the midsection.

"Because aging is associated with sarcopenia, the loss of skeletal muscle mass, relying on body weight alone is insufficient for the study of healthy aging," said lead researcher Rania Mekary, PhD, MSc, of the Harvard School of Public Health.

That's why the researchers focused on waist measurements to see which exercises were linked to a healthier body composition. Specifically, they looked at aerobic exercise, or cardio, versus strength exercise, like weightlifting.

The 10,500 study participants were healthy men age 40 or older. The researchers kept track of their physical activity habits, waist circumferences and body weights over a period of 12 years.

These researchers found that the men who increased their daily activity by 20 minutes per day from the beginning to the end of the study had smaller waists.

Additionally, the men who did cardio lost about one-third of a centimeter from their waist circumference. The strength trainers lost about two-thirds of a centimeter.

The men who did cardio lost more weight overall, but the authors noted that it is almost impossible to lose fat without also losing muscle.

The researchers concluded that strength training was an effective way to maintain healthy body composition among middle-aged men.

"To maintain a healthy weight and waistline, it is critical to incorporate weight training with aerobic exercise," said Frank Wu, MD, PhD, of the Harvard School of Public Health.

This study was published Dec. 22 in Obesity.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Public Health. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
December 22, 2014
Last Updated:
December 23, 2014