Question: “Is aerobic exercise or strength training better for weight loss or do you have to do both? I really want to lose weight, but I’m not sure about the exercise component. Is there any research that answers this question?”
Answer: I’m glad to hear that you’re factoring exercise into your weight loss plan. Daily physical activity is essential, not only to help speed your loss but for your overall health going forward. And you’re in luck. A newly published (2015) study from Spain sheds light on the previously unanswered question of which kind of exercise is most effective.
The participants were all randomly assigned to one of three different exercise-training programs, or instructed to follow the recommendations of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) for weekly physical activity. Participants in one of the groups could choose an endurance activity such as running, working out on an elliptical machine or cycling. Those in another group did only strength training exercises – shoulder presses, squats, barbell rows, biceps curls and bench presses. A third group performed a combination of strength and endurance exercises.
All the participants in the three groups exercised three times a week for 51 minutes at 50 percent intensity during weeks two to five of the study. During weeks six to 14, they upped their intensity to 60 percent and exercised for 50 minutes three times a week. During weeks 15 to 22, their time increased to 60 minutes while their intensity remained at 60 percent. Those following the ACSM recommendations were advised to exercise for 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week for a total of 200 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity. The researchers also urged these participants to increase their daily activity in other ways such as walking instead of driving, using stairs instead of an elevator and making other lifestyle changes to become more active.
So what was there result?
What worked best? All of the above. The researchers reported that all the participants, no matter which of the four exercise plans they followed, lost significant amounts of weight; their body mass index (BMI) decreased, as did their waist circumferences and total body fat. They all saw significant increases in lean body mass.
The Spanish results are interesting and show that regular exercise really does enhance weight loss efforts. Fitness expert Dan Bornstein emphasizes the need for variety in your workouts. The more you vary the intensity, duration and even the type of exercise you do (walking, jogging, biking, swimming, hiking) the more physically challenging each workout will be and the more calories you will burn. Further, the more you vary the types of exercise you perform, the less likely you are to suffer from repetitive stress injuries.
If you’re not accustomed to exercise, I suggest that you start out by working with a trainer who can recommend the exercises that will benefit you the most and teach you how do to them safely.
At menopause weight increase is all too common as a combination of oestrogen dominance and the increased layer of fat cells around the stomach, abdomen and thighs as a result of the the ovaries lessening production of oestrogen. Tackling that will help as one of the effects of progesterone is to balance the water retention action of oestrogen. As progesterone is a natural diuretic it helps balance this by helping to reduce weight as excess water is expelled.