Aerobic exercise is the best way to burn fat, recent research concludes.
People who jog, cycle, swim or do other forms of aerobic exercise, lose weight quicker than those doing resistance exercise, like weight lifting.
The study found little evidence that weight lifting helps to burn fat.
The results come from the largest randomised controlled trial yet conducted on the subject.
Ms Leslie H. Willis, the study’s first author, said:
“Given that approximately two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight due to excess body fat, we want to offer clear, evidence-based exercise recommendations that will truly help people lose weight and body fat.”
For the study, 234 overweight and obese people were split into three groups.
One group did resistance training, involving lifting weights three days a week.
A second group did aerobic exercise, running around 12 miles per week.
A third group did a combination of the two.
The results showed that aerobic exercise was the most efficient way to lose body fat.
Those doing aerobic exercise spent less time exercising (133 minutes per week) than those doing weight lifting (180 minutes per week).
The combination group did not lose any more weight than those doing just aerobic exercise, despite exercising for twice as long.
Ms Willis said:
“No one type of exercise will be best for every health benefit.
However, it might be time to reconsider the conventional wisdom that resistance training alone can induce changes in body mass or fat mass due to an increase in metabolism, as our study found no change.”
Dr Cris A. Slentz, study co-author, said:
“Balancing time commitments against health benefits, our study suggests that aerobic exercise is the best option for reducing fat mass and body mass.
It’s not that resistance training isn’t good for you; it’s just not very good at burning fat.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of Applied Physiology (Willis et al., 2019).