Resisting obesity

The idea of getting on the exercise bike or treadmill every day and sweating it out for half an hour can be some people’s worst nightmare, but hope is not lost for those who want to lose weight without high intensity aerobic exercise.

A meta-analysis conducted by Edith Cowan University’s Exercise Medicine Research Institute has found that a combination of reduced calorie intake and resistance training resulted in significant reductions (2.2%) in body fat percentage and lower levels of whole-body fat mass (1.6kg less).

These effects were consistent across children and adolescents (2.1% & 1.9kg), young adults (2.7% & 1kg), middle-aged adults (2.4% and 1.2 kg), and older adults (1.9% and 1.7 kg).

Lead researcher and PhD student Pedro Lopez said the findings, published 17 May in Obesity Reviews, provide evidence that resistance-based exercise programs are effective and should be considered as an essential part of any multicomponent therapy program for people with obesity.

“Usually when we talk about obesity, body composition or weight loss, we only hear about aerobic exercise,” Mr Lopez said.

“This paper shows we can use resistance training and achieve meaningful effects with a diet based on caloric reduction: we can reduce body fat percentage, whole-body fat mass, body weight and BMI.”

Resistance-based exercise programs resulted in significant reductions in body weight in children and adolescents, young adults and middle-aged and older adults, and changes in BMI were observed in all groups except children and adolescents.

The most effective programs for reducing body weight, in conjunction with a calorie restricted diet, were resistance training and a combination of both resistance training and aerobic exercise.

The combined resistance and aerobic exercise program was the most effective for reducing BMI.

Mr Lopez said resistance training also catered to other important factors when looking to lose weight, such as building muscle or preserving muscle mass when lowering the number of calories being consumed.

Resistance-based exercise programs resulted in significant increases in lean mass (0.7 kg,) consistently across the lifespan of the study, with significant results observed in children/adolescents, young, middle-aged, and older adults.

Mr Lopez said it was important that people battling obesity had options other than aerobic exercise to lose weight.

“This group may be uncomfortable by the prospect of 30 or 40 minutes on a treadmill or a bicycle,” he said.

“They can injure knees, joints, ligaments and more because they have to carry their whole-body weight during a lot of aerobic exercises.”

However, Mr Lopez stressed the study was not a comparison between aerobic and resistance exercise and that regardless of which method people chose, they would still have to cut down on the calories.

“If you want to lose weight, you have to reduce your calorie intake,” he said.