Epic Exercise Battle: What’s the Best Way to Lose Weight?

Treadmills weights rotator

Few would dare doubt the power of running or cycling to burn off fat, but a new study pits aerobic exercise against resistance training in the ongoing battle of the bulge.

While resistance training certainly builds lean body mass (aka gets you ripped)—and may even help your body process glucose better—few large studies have looked at its ability to burn off the excess pounds.

But the time has come for aerobic exercise to take on weightlifting in an epic battle of the biggest loser.

In the study, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, 119 obese or overweight people completed an 8-month exercise program, in one of three workout plans:

  • Aerobic exercise: 12 miles a week on a treadmill, elliptical trainer or cycle ergonometer (at 65 to 80 percent peak VO2)
  • Resistance training: 3 times a week, 3 sets a day, 8 to 12 reps per set
  • Combined: Both the aerobic and resistance training programs.

When the dust from the elliptical trainers had settled, aerobic exercise (along with the combined program) beat out resistance training for weight and fat loss, and also won when it came to decreasing waist circumference.

Don’t worry, resistance training didn’t lose completely. It helped people gain lean muscle mass (well, d’uh). And when combined with aerobic exercise, resistance training also boosted the fat burning and waist shrinking power of time spent on the treadmill.

But at only 133 minutes of exercise a week (compared to 180 minutes for resistance training), aerobic exercise wins hands down for weight loss.

So if you’re short on time—and want to lose weight—go aerobic. You can always get ripped later, after you’ve shed a few of the extra pounds.

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