When you hear weight loss, are you guilty of instantly thinking “calorie-restricting” and “tons of cardio”? Well, recently the largest randomized control trial of its kind was published, which may have indicated the optimal form of exercise for decreasing body mass and fat mass. This study was conducted by Duke University and it found that aerobic training (AT), was the best method for fat loss when compared to resistance training (RT) alone, or resistance training combined with aerobic training.
There were 119 adult participants in the study who were classified as sedentary, overweight or obese. Participants were randomized to one of three 8-month exercise protocols: 1) RT: resistance training, 2) AT: aerobic training, and 3) AT/RT: aerobic and resistance training (combination of AT and RT). Researchers measured the total body mass, fat mass, and lean body mass at baseline, during, and after the study was complete. Baselines measurements showed no significant differences between the groups. By the end of the study, the AT and AT/RT groups had reduced total body mass and fat mass that was more than the RT group. However, there was not much of a difference in loss between the AT and AT/RT group. On the other hand, the RT group and the AT/RT group increased their lean body mass more than the AT (not surprisingly). An interesting finding was that the AT/RT group committed double the amount of time exercising but this increase in time still not make a significant difference when compared to the AT group. Therefore, contrary to popular thinking, it looks like the more time you spend in the gym does NOT always lead to more fat loss. From these findings, it does appear that aerobic training is the optimal mode of exercise for decreasing fat mass and body mass.
While aerobic exercise was found optimal for fat loss, nonetheless resistance training can and should still be incorporated in your workout routine! Resistance training is essential for increasing lean mass in middle, aged, overweight/obese individuals and is useful in maintaining the ability to complete daily activities throughout life with ease. Also, the form of exercise you should do all depends on your goals! Cardio fanatics are generally quite lean, however if it is not your goal to have the lowest body fat percentage possible, incorporating more resistance training in your workout routine along with cardio, may be the right idea for you. In this study, they did see that the RT group significantly increased their lean body mass and strength, which is definitely not a bad result!
So what is the take home message here? According to this study, aerobic exercise is the optimal form of exercise when your goal is to lose FAT. If your weight loss goal is to maintain your current weight, or gain strength and lean body mass, incorporating more resistance training may be something worth trying! Know your goal well and FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU!