By Kate Ferguson, National Monitor
New research suggests that beyond regular aerobic activity, adding weight training to a workout routine might be the key to keeping belly fat at bay.
New research suggests that beyond regular aerobic activity, adding weight training to a workout routine might be the key to keeping belly fat at bay. Research was carried out at the Harvard School of Public Health and took place over the long term, between 1996 and 2008. The participants were a selection of 10,000 healthy men aged 40 and older with a wide variety of body mass indexes.
The results of the study, published in the online journal Obesity, concluded that the best way to hold on to muscle and at the same time prevent belly fat from forming is to do both resistance training workouts in addition to calorie burning aerobic physical activity.
Interestingly, this study showed particular effectiveness when it comes to keeping off the type of belly fat that forms due to age related causes.
During normal aging there is generally a loss of skeletal muscle mass, so weight training becomes particularly important as people get older. This change also makes it less accurate to determine the health of a person based on body weight alone as they age, and points to the importance of calculating the full body mass index.
Calculating the body mass index includes measuring the waist circumference, since this better shows the levels of belly fat in proportion to the rest of the body.
The study took a variety of measures to track belly fat including the waist circumference, physical activity level, and body weight. The results showed that the men who did 20 minutes of weight training each day saw less of an increase in their belly fat levels than men who only did aerobic activity.
Common aerobic activity in the study included yard work and things like stair climbing. The men in the study who became more sedentary as the study went on, such as watching more TV and engaging in more downtime, not surprisingly saw a greater increase in belly fat over time.
These results held true even when other factors were taken into account such as things like diet and other things that might affect weight.
“This study underscores the importance of weight training in reducing abdominal obesity, especially among the elderly,” shared Frank Hu, study author and professor of epidemiology and nutrition.
“To maintain a healthy weight and waistline, it is critical to incorporate weight training with aerobic exercise,” he said.
It is important to point out however that keeping up with aerobic activity is crucial to longterm health as well. Regular aerobic cardiovascular activity has been thought to help prevent heart diseases, cancer, and diabetes, as well as burn calories and reduce the likelihood of developing diabetes.
Belly fat itself has been linked to even larger health issues, such as high blood pressure, higher cholesterol levels, and higher levels of obesity, stroke, diabetes, and heart disease.
As to why weight training could be the key ingredient to keeping off belly fat, researchers have looked towards the phenomenon called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. The body needs to have available oxygen to burn fat, and when weight training is done the metabolic rate in the body raises and remains higher for up to two days. This means more body fat might be burned for longer post weight training as opposed to aerobic activity alone.
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