If you want to lose weight, healthy eating and exercise are key. Everyone knows this. But what’s less obvious is what kind of exercise is best for effectively dropping pounds.
Between all of the cardio, weightlifting and interval training options available, from big box gyms to studio classes and fitness apps, the options are unlimited. To find out what works best for the majority of people, an Australian research team performed a large-scale study that evaluated health records and exercise habits of 1.7 million men and women.
The study’s goal was to determine which type of activity could best prevent obesity, a condition associated with a range of serious health issues, including hypertension, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and cancer — some of the leading causes of mortality across the globe.
GETTING MOVING AND LIFTING
According to the study authors, most of the current research recognizes aerobic activity’s role in preventing obesity. More frequently, studies are evaluating how strength training can reduce the likelihood of gaining weight. Less common, however, are studies that determine which activity works better, and how — if at all — combining the two modalities impacts one’s weight.
After evaluating U.S. health records over the span of six years, researchers found people who exercise in any capacity are less likely to be obese than those who are sedentary. If you hit the CDC’s recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week, your chances of being a healthy weight are even better. So, whether you like to run, walk, cycle, swim, do yoga or lift weights, you’re off to a great start. But it’s the combination of aerobic exercise and strength training that really provides the most benefit.
The data showed people who performed both types of activities were about 50% less likely to be obese than people who were inactive. And they were roughly 20% less likely to be obese than people who only did cardio or only lifted weights. Score one for synergy.
In a corresponding editorial about the study, Dr. Timothy S. Church of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, notes that these findings are further evidence of the importance of strength training in one’s exercise regimen. Many times, people trying to lose weight are led down a path that begins with aerobic activity. If that doesn’t align with their preferences, it will be more difficult for them to maintain consistency. In such cases, strength training can be the foundation of a healthy exercise regimen, and it can be supplemented with cardio.
In fact, the same federal Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans that recommends 150 minutes of exercise each week also recommends performing at least two days of strength training. Unfortunately, a recent study showed only 30% of Americans hit this goal, and a full 60% do no strength training at all. So, increasing resistance-based training — which includes weightlifting, yoga, Pilates and bodyweight exercises like pushups and pullups — would be beneficial for millions of Americans.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Of course, exercise is only one part of the equation. Diet is paramount to maintaining a healthy weight, and a workout can quickly be sabotaged by poor food choices. Eat right, avoid fad diets, stay active, and you’ll have the best chance of success.
Get a full-body workout in no time using only bodyweight exercises or minimal equipment. Find ideas in “Workout Routines” in the app.