Lift more for a smaller size

In the battle of the belly, it is better to bring iron.

That’s the lesson of a new Harvard study that found that over the long term, 20 minutes of daily weight training does more to reduce belly fat than the same amount of aerobic training.

For best results, however, combine them. Strength training combined with running on the treadmill or running gives the best results, researchers say.

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“This study underscores the importance of strength training in reducing abdominal obesity,” says Harvard professor Frank Hu, lead author of the study. “To maintain a healthy weight and height, it’s essential to integrate strength training with aerobic exercise.”

The study was recently published in the medical journal Obesity.

The researchers looked at the physical activity, waist circumference and body weight of 10,500 healthy American men aged 40 and older.

The analysis included a comparison of changes in activity levels over a 12-year period to see which activities had the most effect on men’s waist circumference.

Those who increased the time spent strength training by 20 minutes per day saw their waist circumference increase 68% less than those who increased their training by about 20 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise.

Confirming the obvious, those who spent more time couch surfing, instead of exercising more, had the biggest bulges.

“Because aging is associated with sarcopenia, the loss of skeletal muscle mass, relying solely on body weight is insufficient for the study of healthy aging,” says Rania Mekary, nutrition expert at Harvard’s School of Public. Health who helped direct the research.

“Engaging in resistance training or, ideally, combining it with aerobic exercise could help older adults reduce abdominal fat while increasing or preserving muscle mass,” she says.

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