New study reveals the truth about cardio versus strength training for weight control


If you want to maintain a healthy weight you should be incorporating cardio and strength training into your fitness regime, according to a new study.

If you want to maintain a healthy weight, should you be pounding the treadmill? Or, are your efforts better spent pumping steel? Cardio versus strength training: it’s a debate nearly as old as the concept of exercise itself – but finally, the verdict is in.

Strength training can be just as effective for maintaining weight as aerobic training, and combining the two slashes a person’s risk of obesity by half, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Southern Queensland observed the exercise habits of 1.7 million adults for six years between 2011 and 2017. Participants were split into four groups: those who didn’t do enough exercise; those who did enough strength but not aerobic; those who did enough aerobic but not enough strength; and those who met guidelines for both.

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Researchers based this on the guidelines of doing 150 minutes a week of aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging, tennis or cycling, and two strength sessions like yoga, sit-ups or push-ups, weight machines, free weights and resistance bands.

The findings, published in the journal Obesity, showed that those who did aerobic training or weights alone reduced their obesity risk by about one third and experienced “pretty similar benefits”.

About 40 per cent of Australian adults will be obese within the next decade, putting them at higher risk of health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and depression. However, incorporating both of these forms of training is proven to improve insulin sensitivity, markers of glucose metabolism and lipid metabolism, as well as increase HDL cholesterol and decrease LDL cholesterol.

“There is also a little bit of clinical evidence … that doing both may increase lean muscle mass and that may have a flow-on effect of increasing energy expenditure throughout the day,” said lead author, Dr Jason Bennie.

“I was interested in looking at different physical activities and the way they interact with obesity and body mass index,” said Dr Bennie. “The majority of the evidence is around aerobic (exercise). There has been a little bit of evidence saying muscle strength exercise may also be a benefit for obesity prevention.”

Personal trainer Sam Wood previously told body+soul that anyone looking to lose weight should be aiming to move your body every day for at least half an hour. “But if you’re looking to maximise the effects of your strength training, then it’s not as black and white as choosing cardio over strength, or visa versa.”

He adds, “We all need a bit of yin to our yang, and the reality is you will get the best results when you combine the two. Mixing strength based moves with high intensity bouts of cardio will turn you into a lean, mean fat burning machine much more efficiently than doing your strength and then cardio sessions in isolation.”



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