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Aerobic Activity vs. Weight Lifting: Which Burns More Fat?

A combination of strength training and aerobic exercise is a winning formula.

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As the weather warms up and "swimsuit season" rapidly approaches, are you feeling more self-conscious or concerned about getting in shape and losing some weight than you were over the winter? I am.

Ideally, our daily lifestyle habits should help us maintain a healthy and consistent weight year-round. But we're human, and inevitably the winter months in colder climates can lead to less activity, sedentarism, and an urge to eat larger portions of comfort foods.

Did You Gain Weight Over the Winter?

For anyone who lives in the northeastern United States, you know as well as I do that the snowfall levels we had this past winter were unprecedented. For most of the winter, the sidewalks were impassable where I live, and it was too dangerous to run on the narrowly plowed streets.

Normally, I walk everywhere and like to run outside year-round. This year, however, I found myself cooped up and driving everywhere. The relentless cold and snow forced me into hibernation mode. I ate more than usual and didn't move as much—which added up to a few pounds of weight gain.

When I looked in a full-length mirror this morning before getting in the shower, I thought to myself, " Wow! I look very Rubenesque." Then, I got on the scale and saw the proof in a crystal clear digital display. Over the winter, I put on a pound or two of pure blubber ... Ooops.

The winter weight gain snuck up on me, like it does for most of us. In the back of my mind, I had rationalized the signs of weight gain. I had literally convinced myself subconsciously that my jeans were getting tighter after every wash because the dryer was getting hotter. As the scale just reminded me, this obviously wasn’t the case.

What Is the Most effective and Sensible Way to Lose Weight?

Luckily, this morning a new study from Spain was released that gives some insights for the best way to lose weight and burn fat. The study inspired me to kick-start a new multi-pronged strategy to lose a few pounds. Hopefully, the findings will inspire you, too.

The April 2015 study, "Change in Weight and Body Composition in Obese Subjects Following a Hypocaloric Diet Plus Different Training Programs or Physical Activity Recommendations,” was published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

Source: Kzenon/Shutterstock

Over the years, there has been much debate about the most effective way to lose weight. Opinions vary widely on which exercise regimen is the best. Does high intensity burn more than endurance exercise? Is strength training more beneficial than aerobic exercise for boosting metabolism?

The new clinical study by the team of Spanish researchers concluded that the type of exercise is less important than previously thought, as long as you're doing something physical on a regular basis.

The researchers from the Technical University of Madrid and La Paz University Hospital set out to measure whether the types of various exercise—endurance training, strength training, strength plus endurance training, combined with a lower-calorie diet—would make a significant difference on body weight and body composition.

I was happy that the study ultimately concluded what I’ve known all along—a combination of aerobic exercise, resistance strength training, and eating fewer calories leads to weight loss.

The outcomes for all of the study participants included: reductions in body weight, body mass index, waist circumference, total fat mass, and a significant increase in lean mass. The weight loss results were seen across the board despite the differences in the type of exercise performed.

Strength Training Increases Lean Muscle Mass and Boosts Metabolism

Pixabay/Free Image
Source: Pixabay/Free Image

A study from 2014 by researchers at the University of Calgary found that combining aerobic exercise with resistance training may be the most effective way for youths with obesity to lose weight. The study, "Effects of Aerobic Training, Resistance Training, or Both on Percentage Body Fat and Cardiometabolic Risk Markers in Obese Adolescents,” was published in JAMA Pediatrics.

In a press release, Dr. Ron Sigal of the University of Calgary's Institute for Public Health said,

Adolescents who are overweight are typically advised to exercise more, but there is limited evidence on what type of exercise is best in order to lose fat. In the overall study population, each type of exercise reduced body fat significantly and similarly. All three exercise programs caused significantly more fat loss than in the diet-only control group.

Among youths who completed at least 70 percent of the study's exercise sessions, the percentage of body fat decreased significantly more in those who did combined aerobic and resistance exercise than in those who only did aerobic exercise.

Aerobic exercise, such as riding a bike or jogging, can potentially be challenging for people who are overweight or obese. If you have trouble doing aerobic exercise for any reason, remember that resistance training is a very effective way to boost metabolism and lose weight.

Conclusion: Four Simple Rules of Thumb for Maintaining Weight-Loss

There will always be a new fad diet or exercise plan that claims to have a revolutionary way to instantly take inches off your waist. Don’t believe the hype.

These four weight loss guidelines have stood the test of time and remain scientifically proven rules of thumb for losing weight and maintaining weight-loss.

The Four Golden Rules of Weight Loss by Bergland

  1. Eat healthier and balance your calories in-calories out.
  2. Exercise aerobically for about 30-60 minutes most days of the week.
  3. Lift weights and do strength training 2-3 times a week.
  4. Avoid sedentarism! Stand, walk, and bike when you can.

As a personal case study, I realize the reason I gained weight this past winter was due to the combination of three things: too many calories, too much sitting, and not enough walking. This created a triple whammy that led to weight gain. Even though I continued my regular cardio and strength training routine at the gym, the caloric surplus coming into my body and the lack of calories going out due to my sedentarism tipped the scales.

Remember: Even if you are working out regularly, if you overeat and spend the rest of your day being sedentary the odds are that you will gain weight.

© Christopher Bergland 2015. All rights reserved.

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