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Sharon Basaraba

Aerobics Better Than Weight Training for Weight Loss

By January 17, 2013

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A recent study from Duke University helps solve an age-old weight loss question: which is better for shedding pounds, aerobic exercise, or weight training?  In their report, published online in the Journal of Applied Physiology, the researchers examined the effects of three different exercise plans to determine which approach prompted the greatest weight loss.  More than 3,000 subjects were initially screened by phone, with 119 sedentary, overweight or obese people completing the study.

The first group did resistance training, lifting weights three days per week, performing 8-12 repetitions of each exercise in 3 sets per day.  The second group did aerobic exercise, approximately 45 minutes per day, three days a week.  The third group combined both regimens.

The researchers -- including a cardiologist and several geriatricians -- wanted to test the conventional wisdom associated with each type of activity: those who favor aerobic exercise claim that more calories are burned during a workout, while supporters of weight training say it is more effective for weight loss because greater muscle mass burns more calories, even when the body is at rest.

The results?  After eight months, both the aerobics group, and the combination aerobics/resistance training group, lost weight -- though the subjects doing weight-training alone did not.  Body weight dropped by 1.76 kg (3.8 lb) in the aerobics group, and 1.63 kg (3.6 lb) in the combination group, but increased in the weight-training group by an average of 0.83 kg (1.8 lb).  The weight-training group saw better increases in lean body mass gains, but no significant loss of either total fat mass, or total body weight.

In conclusion, the researchers write that aerobic exercise should be promoted as the more effective route for weight loss.


Leslie H. Willis, Cris A. Slentz, Lori A. Bateman, A. Tamlyn Shields, Lucy W. Piner, Connie W. Bales, Joseph A. Houmard and William E. Kraus. "> and fat mass in overweight or obese adults." J Appl Physiol 113:1831-1837, 2012.

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