Lifting weights could be the key for avoiding obesity

gym weightsBy now most of you will be feeling the after-effects of the hectic Christmas period as all those turkey dinners, mince pies and alcoholic drinks begin to creep onto the waistline.

However, the findings of a new study show that weightlifting could be the key for winning the battle of the bulge and maintaining a flatter stomach, as opposed to aerobic exercise such as cycling or running.

Although the typical ‘macho’ gym-goer is often the source of ridicule from many people, it seems those lifting weights on a regular basis may actually have a much greater chance of avoiding a middle-aged spread around the belly, according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Lead author Dr Rania Mekary, from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH)’s Department of Nutrition, and colleagues looked at the levels of physical activity, waist circumference (in centimetres), and body weight of 10,500 healthy American men aged 40 who had been involved in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study during the years 1996 to 2008.

An analysis was conducted of variations in the participants’ activity levels over the 12 years to see which kind of exercise had the biggest impact on the men’s weight and waistlines.

It was discovered that the men who spent 20 minutes each day engaging in weight training actually had less of an increase in abdominal fat in comparison to those that had completed 20 minutes per day doing moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise.

Published online in the journal Obesity, the findings demonstrate the longstanding argument from many that both weight training and aerobic activities have the best results for keeping weight gain at bay. However, the two compared side-by-side indicated that weight training resulted in less gain to the men’s waistline.

Unsurprisingly, those who increased their sedentary behaviours, such as watching television, had bigger gains to their waistline.

“Because ageing is associated with sarcopenia, the loss of skeletal muscle mass, relying on body weight alone is insufficient for the study of healthy ageing,” said Dr Mekary.

“Measuring waist circumference is a better indicator of healthy body composition among older adults. Engaging in resistance training or, ideally, combining it with aerobic exercise could help older adults lessen abdominal fat while increasing or preserving muscle mass.”

“This study underscores the importance of weight training in reducing abdominal obesity, especially among the elderly,” added Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at HSPH and senior author of the study.

“To maintain a healthy weight and waistline, it is critical to incorporate weight training with aerobic exercise,” said Frank.

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