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Benefits of Aerobic Exercise vs. Resistance Training


By +Carolyn Richardson on Oct 26, 2011 10:00 AM in Tips & Updates

Excess visceral fat, that which surrounds internal organs in the abdominal area, is linked to an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer.  So getting rid of it is important to your overall health. Though it will take hard work to lose, it doesn’t require heavy lifting.  Duke University researchers recently found that aerobic exercise is the principle way to lose visceral fat in overweight and obese individuals.

Weights Not a Factor

The study published in the August 25th issue of the American Journal of Physiology, studied almost 200 overweight subjects over an eight-month period.  The 'aerobic exercise only' group saw significant reductions in liver fat, visceral fat, and both total and subcutaneous abdominal fat. "Statistically indistinguishable" results were found for the group that engaged in both aerobic exercise and resistance training, while subjects in the resistance training only group saw significant reduction in subcutaneous fat only. 

Go for the Burn

Chris Slentz, PhD, lead author of the study said, "Resistance training is great for improving strength and increasing lean body mass. But if you are overweight, which two-thirds of the population is, and you want to lose belly fat, aerobic exercise is the better choice because it burns more calories." Participants in the aerobic training group did the equivalent of 12 miles jogging at 75% peak oxygen consumption, which is a moderate-intensity level.  But adding high intensity sometimes may also be good.  A smaller study found that a mix of low and high intensity training is what takes off the visceral fat.  Researchers at the University of Virginia tested the intensity of exercise on abdominal fat loss and found that low intensity training did not have a significant effect on abdominal fat loss, but mixing high intensity training three times a week with two days of low intensity training did.

Slow-Go Takes Longer

Despite the findings of both studies, all is not lost if you go for low-intensity exercise.  Because the studies were time specific, they did not point out that doing aerobic exercise at a low-intensity may give similar results. Just give yourself more time to get to your goal.  Slentz adds, "What really counts is how much exercise you do, how many miles you walk, and how many calories you burn. If you choose to work at a lower aerobic intensity, it will simply take longer to burn the same amount of unhealthy fat."


Your thoughts…

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I read this article with much interest. I am 73 y.o. and am overweight. I am 167 cm. and have in the last 3 month gone from 91 kg to 85.5 kg. (I live in Thailand so all measurements are metric.) My main problem is that several years ago (2005) I had an operation for stenosis. Because I still have significant back pain my exercise routine is limited. I recently bought a recumbent exercycle and am doing 20 mins/day at the lowest level for two days then take one off then two on - one off etc. I bought the recumbent because the seat back supports my back and gives me no pain. I also do some back stretches that I found on-line before "riding". What I am asking is: does anyone have any suggestions for any other mild (walking short distances causes back pain) aerobic exercises that I can do? I am very much trying to avoid getting diabetes. 



Swimming: crowl with the correct technique can make you "sweat in the water" without any impact in you back. Avoid breaststrock since it tends to put pressure on your lower back. Done properly will keep your carciovascular capacity and also make you burn lots of calories, but please, take advice if you are not a good swimmer, it's better to get the correct technique and later worry about the calories burned


Thank you MFA. I don't know why I didn't think of that. I swam on my high school swim team! Unfortunately, the nearest swimming pool to where I live is about 27 km away. But a trip a couple of times a week is certainly possible.



Interesting article, but I have found that a program that combines cardio and strength training has been key to my 99 pound weight loss.  Programs of this type gives you the best of both worlds. The cardio workouts will definitely have the benefits of burning fat and strengthening the cardio vascular system.  The strength training workout help you to build muscle which will increase your metabolism which results in more calories burned throughout the day.



I agree coachtod and it is good to read that those that do not wish to build or tone muscles can reduce weight and excess fat with simple cardio.  Personally, I do both and have experienced a noticeable reduction in belly fat but have steadily increased in mass after losing it! I have gone from 96kgs to under 80kgs and now settling around 84 kgs in under 6 months. Importantly, the weight training does increase metabolism which has longer lasting effects if maintained.



I believe that strenght training would be more beneficial than cardio especially for the overweight and obese, it may take a little longer to start to see results but after 3-4 weeks the weight will come start to come off, you will feel strong and healthy, training with weights doesn't require a long session to be effective, in the long run it is MY opinion that is more effective than cardio.

I love cardio don't get me wrong but its not better for me than weight training.

Until i included weight training i didnt feel strong, i didn't see any results at all, the weight did not come off and i was tired all the time, without energy and dreading yet another hour of cardio. Now after just 1 month of 3 times a week of training ( i go to power classes) I feel stronger inside, my clothes are looser, i have energy to do cardio and go through my day. And the more muscle you have the more calories you burn even sitting down! I love to eat, we all do or we would not be overweight, if having more muscle allows me to eat more, I will get more muscle!

I disagree with this article. Thats my opinion. But, i also believe that people should find exercises they enjoy and will continue doing them.

My favorites right now are weight classes, Zumba (cardio) treadmill, elliptical, yoga is great for stretching.  I hate step but i have noticed that it challenges me so i do it occasionally. (once a month)



I agree with coachtod!! I've been using this method also and I've lost 124 lbs. and I getting "ripped" muscles. Also, "a little goes a long way". If all you can squeeze onto your day is a 20 minute workout, these cardio-tone workouts are for you. They are VERY effective!!!



Sorry, what's the difference between aerobic exercise and resistance training? For me, running at 5 minutes per km could be both.



I think it needs to be both. Cardio for the reasons above. But muscle burns more calories than fat. If you don't build that muscle, you are going to regain the weight you lost.

edlipton -- check with a trainer or physical therapist. I know that there are aerobic exercise for people in wheelchairs, using only their arms. I know this is not your situation, but you could place yourself in a position that supports your back.



Cardio may burn more calories if you look only at the time involved in the exercise.  But muscle mass burns more calories at all times.  Strength training has benefits that go throughout the day - with more muscle you are burning more calories even as you sleep!  That's hard to beat.

I do cardio for heart and lung health, but resistance training for weight loss, joint support, and bone health. 



Overweight people need to change their eating habits along with getting more exercise. 

 

More fruits and vegetables and less meat, dairy, fish, sugar and alcohol will go a lot longer in helping to reduce weight.

 

 



Like many, I am also overweight @230 lbs and 70 yrs of age. 18 mos ago I underwent open heart surgery for an aortic valve replacement and double bypass.  Following surgery I did cycle some but found I had an increased appetite.  I finally decided to do something about my weight and health and joined a Fitness Center two weeks ago.  I started exercising 3 times per week for about an hour, however I don't know if I am doing the right exercises.  I had an orientation and was given a program on about 9 different machines and follow them diligently.  This is only my second week and I plan to continue to see what benefits I can get.



Original Post by: lkm555

I think it needs to be both. Cardio for the reasons above. But muscle burns more calories than fat. If you don't build that muscle, you are going to regain the weight you lost.

edlipton -- check with a trainer or physical therapist. I know that there are aerobic exercise for people in wheelchairs, using only their arms. I know this is not your situation, but you could place yourself in a position that supports your back.


I agree--there DOES need to be cardio and weight training.  As a lifelong exerciser, I can attest to the fact that you need both.  

You particularly need to weight train as you age, as you lose muscle mass as you age.  Since hitting 40 years old, I have really struggled with finding a "new balance" for my body, as the same things don't work.  I have just started lifting weights longer and heavier than I ever have and doing shorter amounts of cardio (30 minutes).  In a short time, I am noticing a change in the shape of my body, which is great.

The golden rule for everything--in your diet and your exercise, is balance.  And everybody's balance is different.



irelg - It really all depends on what you are trying to achieve. I'm trying to lose weight and tone up without trying to look like a but have limited time so I do 20 minutes of cardio 5-6 times a week and then 10 minutes of weight/core training. I focus on my low back and abdominals three days, and then do 2 days of strength training with pull-ups, dips, push-ups, and goblet squats. These are all simple exercises that can help you lose weight, tone-up, and not over-extend yourself when you first start exercising (though the goblet squats made my legs feel HORRID for 3-4 days when I first did them). If pull-ups/dips are too much to do with your full body-weight then try to find a weight-assisted pull-up/dip machine to offset the weight when you start.

However, that being said, I don't do anything overly intensive. Too many people go into an exercise routine expecting instantaneous results and push themselves too hard leading to injury and giving up exercise again. If you haven't exercised regularly START SLOW!! No one expects you to be an Olympian in 6 months. Also, don't feel self-conscious; everyone is there for different reasons but everyone is trying to get into better shape. Don't try to compete with the 20 year old bench pressing 250 lbs next to you.

Frankly, the best and most effective exercises are the ones you'll do! If you have equipment that you don't like to use, chances are you'll stop using it. Find the things you enjoy to do, but try to gradually increase the length, resistance, etc. Also, try to use varying intervals. For example, walking 20 minutes at 3.5% Grade at 3.5 mph is great cardio, but you need to throw in maybe 4-5 minutes of an increased grade and/or speed somewhere in the middle. Having that increased intensity for just a few moments will help you burn even more calories.



I find a combination of exercise- cardio and circuit training is ideal. The body gets use to one type of exercise  so it's good to vary everything. To date I have lost 160  lbs since April 1 2010. In addition to swimming another really great thing is water jogging. It wont do damage to the the knee  and yet gives a great workout. They have this styrofoam belts you can wear so you float and then you can jog in the deep end. Also syrofoam dumb bells can give a great workout as well.

I am a total exercise nut and I find that exercising 6 days a week and eating sensibly is the key to my success. I just started the treadmill which I hadn't done before and I find that really good for cardio. I also do Pilates , reclining bicycle, rowing swimming, water aerobics and water jogging, circuit training, and walking.

I think the thing to do in starting an exercise program -especially when you are over weight and may have some injuries is ti start slowly. If you have any concerns talk to your doctor. I had double knee replacement a year ago and I want to check it out with my orthopedic doctor to see if jogging on the treadmill is going to be ok with my knees. I may have to stick with brisk walking.

Best of luck on all your exercise journeys.

 



Original Post by: miguel_arino

Sorry, what's the difference between aerobic exercise and resistance training? For me, running at 5 minutes per km could be both.


Resistance training is basically weight-lifting, although there are a couple of other things. It's exercise where the main focus is straining your muscles very hard rather than straining your heart and lungs. Resistance and cardio both have effects on your whole body, of course (when I've been on a good run I can feel it the day after in my leg muscles, and when I'm lifting weights my heart rate definitely goes up) but it's about what the focus is.

Running at 5 mins/km will certainly build up your leg muscles over time! But the main point is building up your endurance rather than strength, so it's more appropriate to think of it as aerobic/cardio exercise than resistance training.



If you want to see exceptional benefits then alternate days with resistive training with weights and short high intensity cardio. Get on the bike or treadmill for 20 minutes and alternate a minute or two high and then one minute low intensity. On weight days, for a couple of weeks, do all body parts every other day. Do two sets of 10 and two exercises per bodypart to get your muscles used to the new movement. You will avoid the pain and soreness. Go online and look up the movements. Example for chest: incline bench press and cable crossovers. Easy to do.  After a couple of weeks break the weights down to upper body and lower body. One day weight, one day cardio. Take the mindset of looking forward to exercising rather than dreading it.

Diet is pretty simple. Get rid of the sugar and HFC's.  These trigger craving. Replace with a "go to" snack like almonds and cheese sticks. You have to be disciplined and give it a couple of weeks to get that sugar craving response eliminated. Once that happens you will be amazed how good you feel and you will lose both viceral and subcutaneous fat.



I agree with many others here. You should mix both. Cardio training on it's own will not be too beneficial. Build underlying muscle mass with increase calorie burn when not exercising as muscle requires more calories. An essential would be to also concentrate on the core body workouts - abs - which will help with other exercises such as running and resistance training.

 

I have combined both cardio and resistance training which has helped me lose more than 20Kgs in a year, improve my fitness considerably and improve my lifestyle. This year I completed my first 1/2 marathon whereas 8 months previous I was out of breath after 500m. Cardio training I feel is better if it is interval training where you increase and decrease the intensity of the exercise - for example I run 1m30sec at 15Kph and then 30 at 7kph 6 times and the 1min at 17+kph and 1min at 7kph six times for interval running on treadmill. I also run short and long distances mixed throughout the week. Interval training helps with the endurance. I mix the running with cycle, row and cross trainer in gym (can send to anyone needed - you build up to what I do) each twice a week.

 

The biggest key factor to all exercise though is the control of your diet. Without this you're fighting in a losing corner. Keep the calorie intake suitable for the burn etc to help maintain muscle mass ensuring the body doesn't panic and store the fat.



What is the difference between "moderate", "low", and "high" intensity? 

I currently work the treadmill at a rate of 3.8 mph at a 5.5 deg angle for 60 min continuous for my aerobic, and my heartrate might get to 150 bpm, but it stays above 130 for the entire 60 min (I'm 35).  That gives me a rate of a little over 800 cal/hour burn according to the treadmill calculator. 

Every other day I also do about 30 min of fairly intense weightlifting (if I can do more than 3 sets of 10 at whatever weight setting, then I up the weight by 10 lbs or so until I can't do more than that). 

What is all that in intensity for the purposes of this article?



Comment Removed

Please note that the article specifically is targeted at ways to lose visceral fat and fat within the liver (since the presence of high amounts of fat in these areas tends to correlate with higher disease rates).  It is not saying that the techniques mentioned are the best for losing the most weight in the shortest amount of time, or the best techniques to make you look better, but that the techniques are best for losing fat from specific areas that people concerned with related illness should be focused on.



I was a martial arts instructor for 2 years, and my main type of exercise was cardio mixed with some calithstenics..I lost weight however I was exercising in excess of 3 hours a day, and couldn't understand why I couldn't lose more weight after I hit a 1 year plateau.  My endurance was phenominal and I also clocked 65 pushups real ones not motified..I am a woman so I consider that pretty good.  I got comments from parents on how high enregy I was...but I still wasnt happy with my weight.  I started lifting weight 3 times a week with cardio, and my weight didn't drop considerably but the size of my clothes and my body structure completely changed.  I got numerous comments and how good people thought I looked.  Then I hit another plateau.  I started superset weight training which is higher endurance more reps lower weight training, and also I started MMA training which is a whole other level of endurance that peak athletes have a hard time keeping up with.  Switching up your routine and having a routine all together is what gives people results.  Be flexible and open minded don't stick to what you just know.



i am 70. i have had 1 knee and 1 hip replaced and i have spinal stenosis. i can do a lot of walking so i dance, not to zumba but the oldies. i also do circuit training. i have jakes tower and i start off with 7 total body exercises and run through pretty fast, then using 40lb dumbbells i run through 7 total body exercises again. i then do a set of 9 stretching and yoga exercises before i go back to the jakes tower and weight circuit once again. i finish up with the 9 stretching/yoga exercises. i takes me about 60 minutes. i do this 3 days a week. two days a week i do the stretching/yoga exercises and dance to the oldies. two days a week i just do 3 set of the 9 stretching/yoga exercises. keeps me in pretty good shape.



When i started to get serious about my weight and health issues it was all i could do to just "move it", let alone think about "aerobic?" or "resistance?".

Now, 50 pounds gone (with 67 pounds to go), i walk (almost) everyday, weight my food  and stay in my my caloric range. I had to adopt the mindset, "this is all the food i need to be healthy".  What a difference from my past - "i feel so deprived" attitude about cutting calories.

Maybe one day in the future I'll get to this discussion, but, for right now, as ocd as I am, I'm sticking to what works  for me. 

 

 



Also, remember that we are not identical clones.  I believe each one of us reacts differently to various stratagies.  What works for me may not work for you and what works for you may not work for me, etc.



The article is discussing the outcome of a study conducted by professionals. The comments on it are pretty much people saying why they disagree with it. For me, the only relevant information is firstly the result of the trial, because numbers don't lie, and secondly whether the trial was properly conducted.

In the absence of any specific information indicating that the trial was flawed, I think people need to sit up and listen rather than getting up on a soapbox and saying why their anecdotal experience says the experts are wrong. You will never learn anything by simply insisting what you already know is all there is to know.

The result might seem counterintuitive and it might not address criteria such as impact on joints for very overweight people. But that's not relevant. The finding was that cardio was the most beneficial. Why bother reading at all, if all you're going to do is reject out of hand anything that doesn't agree with you?



The article is discussing the outcome of a study conducted by professionals. The comments on it are pretty much people saying why they disagree with it. For me, the only relevant information is firstly the result of the trial, because numbers don't lie, and secondly whether the trial was properly conducted.

In the absence of any specific information indicating that the trial was flawed, I think people need to sit up and listen rather than getting up on a soapbox and saying why their anecdotal experience says the experts are wrong. You will never learn anything by simply insisting what you already know is all there is to know.

The result might seem counterintuitive and it might not address criteria such as impact on joints for very overweight people. But that's not relevant. The finding was that cardio was the most beneficial. Why bother reading at all, if all you're going to do is reject out of hand anything that doesn't agree with you?



Original Post by: melissaheath

The article is discussing the outcome of a study conducted by professionals. The comments on it are pretty much people saying why they disagree with it. For me, the only relevant information is firstly the result of the trial, because numbers don't lie, and secondly whether the trial was properly conducted.

In the absence of any specific information indicating that the trial was flawed, I think people need to sit up and listen rather than getting up on a soapbox and saying why their anecdotal experience says the experts are wrong. You will never learn anything by simply insisting what you already know is all there is to know.

The result might seem counterintuitive and it might not address criteria such as impact on joints for very overweight people. But that's not relevant. The finding was that cardio was the most beneficial. Why bother reading at all, if all you're going to do is reject out of hand anything that doesn't agree with you?


Has anyone said "Actually no cardio is no good, you should do only resistance training"? I must have missed that.

I don't think anyone is disputing that cardio is very useful. We're just pointing out that resistance training also has its uses, and that it's good to do both.



Over the last 6months I have lost 55 pounds. I use a combination of cardio and strength training. Another key aspect of my program is to use a food diary to track what I eat; just the action of tracking the food has a positive impact of keeping awareness up and making healthier choices. I am 65, so most could follow a similar program. My workouts are 3 times a week and last 2 hours, but I have averaged over 2-1/2  pounds per week loss. Recently I began walking with dog and grand-daughter in stroller multiple miles; more cardio on the off days. A more modest program could easily be developed to lose 1 pound per week - that's 50 pounds in a year. Long term goals are important and more sustainable than quick fixes - been there and done that.  



This article is misleading or should I say, readers have jumped right in to discuss their diet and exercise habits and what they have lost, or not.  This trial concerned VISCERAL fat.  That is very different than losing a couple of pounds and now one's pants are looser.  Visceral fat surrounds the organs; if one lost a pound of it, it could easily go un-noticed.

Also, the study does not say what kind of exercise was done.  I am a trainer; morbidly obese people cannot usually run for any length of time.  In fact, one of my obese clients had a goal--to be able to walk three blocks to the movie theater instead of take a taxi.  These are usually NOT very able and fit people.  The article does not say HOW overweight the subjects were.  Very overweight people usually do not stick with a program that will take 'a long time to burn calories' off.

Funny, too, that the woman pictured is definitely FAR from overweight.  I have always found that for the very overweight group of exercisers, weight training and food counseling are the two disciplines are work--when done with an active lifestyle.



I have a 90 year old uncle and a 90 year old friend, both are slim males who play tennis a minimum of once per week.


Hi everyone;

I need some advice on how to jump start my weight loss. This past month i have lost only 2 lbs and this is with exercising like crazy and having a huge caloric deficit (though not every day ) I have had deficits ranging from -1766 to -4 and also this month I had 3 days where I went over my 1400. ( the most was 234 calories) So the caloric intake varies.

 Now since April 1 2010 I have lost close to 160lbs. I had gastric by pass surgery on Aug 25 2010. ( I lost 42lbs prior to surgery) I exercise 6 days a week sometimes going to the gym twice a day. The reason for that is because I can eat only small quantities at any given time I just don't have the energy for long workouts. I cross train -swimming, water jogging, water aerobics, pilates, circuit training and a bunch of cardio like rowing machine, Nu-step, and treadmill, which I have just started recently. I LOVE to exercise.

I have heard that the body needs to be tricked as otherwise is gets very good at holding on every last calorie. The problem I can't eat a huge amount in any given time. I am lucky if I can eat 3 oz of meat, fish or chicken at any given time.  Any pointer would be most welcome.

 

Thanks in advance, Sarah

PS My goal weight is 118 (I'm 5'2" medium build and soon to be 65) 



I get warnings when the food I enter into database is under 1200 calories about not eating enough. My wife was given the same advice at Weight Watchers; you have to eat enough to promote weight loss. You need to eat enough calories to avoid the body going into what I understand as starvation mode.  Not sure how this works exactly.I am sure someone can explain it better, but my experience is I continue to lose 2 pounds a week by ensuring I am at or just above my target calorie intake. I do work out three times a week for about 2 hours, so the program is pretty rigorous for me as a 65-year old. Total weight loss over 6 months is 56 pounds.



Comment Removed

Original Post by: mamabear108

Hi everyone;

I need some advice on how to jump start my weight loss. This past month i have lost only 2 lbs and this is with exercising like crazy and having a huge caloric deficit (though not every day ) I have had deficits ranging from -1766 to -4 and also this month I had 3 days where I went over my 1400. ( the most was 234 calories) So the caloric intake varies.

 Now since April 1 2010 I have lost close to 160lbs. I had gastric by pass surgery on Aug 25 2010. ( I lost 42lbs prior to surgery) I exercise 6 days a week sometimes going to the gym twice a day. The reason for that is because I can eat only small quantities at any given time I just don't have the energy for long workouts. I cross train -swimming, water jogging, water aerobics, pilates, circuit training and a bunch of cardio like rowing machine, Nu-step, and treadmill, which I have just started recently. I LOVE to exercise.

I have heard that the body needs to be tricked as otherwise is gets very good at holding on every last calorie. The problem I can't eat a huge amount in any given time. I am lucky if I can eat 3 oz of meat, fish or chicken at any given time.  Any pointer would be most welcome.

 

Thanks in advance, Sarah

PS My goal weight is 118 (I'm 5'2" medium build and soon to be 65) 


First, congratulations on your weight loss success! You sound like you are doing all the right things. Second, I see any weight loss as success: 2 pounds or 20, you are going down the right path. There was 1 month in my year of weight loss when I actually gained a pound, but I recovered my focus and succeeded in reaching a healthy weight. I have sort of stalled as well, and it's hard to drop those last 10 pounds to my goal. Whether the body needs to acclimate to the new weight or not, I think you should not see your slowdown as a negative. Stay with it and you will get there. Try not to become impatient with your progress especially after all your successes!



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