We all know that you should get a half hour of moderate “aerobic” exercise five days a week right? At least that’s according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: “[A]dults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity...aerobic physical activity”. Common knowledge is that if you want to lose fat, a large investment in time spent jogging, swimming, or some other low/moderate-intensity exercise is the best way to do it. So we know this as fact, but we also knew that the Earth was flat and it was the center of the universe at one point too. Well, recently a lot of evidence has been popping up showing that “aerobic” exercise, aka “cardio,” is NOT a superior form of exercise. And not only that, but it can unnecessarily take up a ton of time!
Let’s take a look at what some of the research shows for body fat loss in teens. In a study spanning 5 months, traditional cardio and resistance training were compared in obese teenagers. Teens lost 40%--yes, 40%!--more belly fat when doing resistance training compared to cardio. As if that wasn’t enough evidence, in another study that lasted 5 months, cardio training, resistance training, and cardio plus resistance training were compared to determine the best exercise regimen for obese teenagers. The teens who only did resistance training lost 50% more body fat than those who only did cardio. Wondering where the teens on the combined regimen ended up? Exactly where you’d think!--right in between: they lost more body fat than those only doing cardio but not as much as those only doing resistance.
So what conclusions were drawn from the above studies? The two main ones are:
Lifting weights can help decrease body fat over time better than steady state cardio.
Adding in cardio to your resistance training can potentially blunt your body’s ability to burn fat!
If you haven’t started yet, it’s definitely time to try lifting weights. In terms of fat loss, your time may be better spent by trading in your cardio for weight training or some other form of high-intensity exercise. And there may be similar conclusions drawn for overall health as well, but we’ll save that discussion for a future time. With that said, do you even lift?