According to researchers, daily weight training combined with aerobic exercise is the best way to maintain a trim waistline.Men who work out with weights for 20 minutes per day experience a smaller increase in belly fat as they age, scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) concluded.
Their study, which tracked 10,500 men, showed that those who did resistance training not only achieved better fitness; they enjoyed enhanced overall health and wellness. Other research has indicated that people who lift weights and eat a nutritious diet are less likely to be diagnosed with orthopedic problems.
While aerobic exercise is a proven method of losing weight, it is not as effective as weight training in reducing abdominal fat and strengthening abdominal muscles, according to the Harvard scientists.
Their report, published online in December 2014 in the journal Obesity, stated that combining the two types of workouts achieves “the most optimal results.” The study’s lead author was Rania Mekary, a researcher at Harvard’s Department of Nutrition and an assistant professor of pharmacy (no prescription). She wrote:
“Because aging is associated with sarcopenia, the loss of skeletal muscle mass, relying on body weight alone is insufficient for the study of healthy aging. Measuring waist circumference is a better indicator of healthy body composition among older adults.”
Previous studies comparing the relative benefits of resistance training and aerobic exercise produced mixed results, according to the HSPH. The trials were short term, and involved participants who had been diagnosed with conditions such as obesity or Type 2 diabetes. The Harvard researchers recruited healthy volunteers with varying body mass indexes, and monitored them for 12 years.
The participants were U.S. men 40 years of age or older. The scientists measured their physical activity, waist circumference and body weight. They compared changes in the men’s activity levels to detect how different kinds of exercise affected their waistlines.
The volunteers who increased their weight training by 20 minutes a day lost an average of three-quarters of a centimeter in waist size. Men who engaged in “moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise” for the same amount of time decreased their abdominal circumference by just one-third of a centimeter. Yard work or stair climbing resulted in a reduction of .16 of a centimeter, while participants who increased their sedentary behavior by 20 minutes a day saw their waistlines expand.
“This study underscores the importance of weight training in reducing abdominal obesity, especially among the elderly,” said Frank Hu, the study’s senior author and a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the HSPH. “To maintain a healthy weight and waistline, it is critical to incorporate weight training with aerobic exercise.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, “having an apple shape” (characterized by excessive fat around the middle of the body) increases the risk of coronary heart disease, heart failure, high blood pressure, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, metabolic syndrome, sleep apnea, gallstones, several kinds of cancer, menstrual issues and female infertility.
In addition, obesity damages the lower back, knees and hips. Protective cartilage in the joints gradually deteriorates, resulting in pain and decreased range of motion. This often leads to osteoarthritis, a leading cause of disability for people over 50 years old.
If you are suffering from pain and decreased mobility in a knee or hip, the discomfort may be relieved by adopting a balanced diet and engaging in a fitness program that features the right kinds of exercise. Schedule an evaluation by the sports medicine staff at Orthopedic Surgery San Diego to learn about the best treatments to improve your health and wellness.