When it comes to weight and fat loss, aerobic training is better than resistance training, researchers say.
The study by North Carolina researchers is believed to the largest randomised trial to directly compare changes in body composition induced by comparable amounts of time spent doing aerobic and resistant training, or both in combination, among previously inactive overweight non-diabetic adults.
A total of 234 previously sedentary overweight or obese males and females, age 18-70 years of age, were enrolled in one of three eight-month supervised protocols: aerobic training (AT), resistance training (RT), or a combination (AT/RT). Of the total, 119 participants completed the trials and had complete data for the variables of interest in the article.
Those assigned to aerobic training exercised vigorously, at about 70-85% of maximum heart rate. They exercised 45 minutes three days per week throughout the study period.
Individuals assigned to resistance training also exercised three days a week, completing three sets of 8-12 reps on eight resistance machines that targeted all major muscle groups. Resistance was increased throughout the study to maintain a steady level of challenge as the participants gained strength.
Individuals who were assigned to AT/RT performed all the exercises assigned to both AT and RT groups. At the end of study each enrollee was assessed for weight, body composition, waist circumference, cardiopulmonary fitness and strength compared to their baseline.
The researchers found that the groups assigned to aerobic training and aerobic plus resistance training lost more weight than those that did resistance training only. In fact, those who did resistance training only actually gained weight due to an increase in lean body mass.
Fat mass and waist circumference significantly decreased in the AT and AT/RT groups, but were not altered in RT. However, measures of lean body mass significantly increased in RT and AT/RT, but not in AT. The finding suggests that aerobic exercise is more effective in reducing these measures.