A head-to-head comparison of aerobic exercise vs. resistance training found that aerobic exercise is the most efficient and effective way to lose belly fat. Importantly, it's also the most effective way to reduce the fat that's most damaging to your health.
According to the Duke University Medical Center researchers who conducted the study, this isn't the fat that lies just under your skin. Belly or abdominal fat (also known as visceral fat and liver fat) is located deep within the abdominal cavity and fills the spaces between internal organs. It's been associated with increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, and certain kinds of cancer.
"When it comes to increased health risks, where fat is deposited in the body is more important than how much fat you have," said Duke's Cris Slentz, lead author of the study. "Our study sought to identify the most effective form of exercise to get rid of that unhealthy fat."
The findings showed aerobic training significantly reduced visceral fat and liver fat, the culprit in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Aerobic exercise also did a better job than resistance training at improving fasting insulin resistance, and reducing liver enzymes and fasting triglyceride levels. All are known risk factors for diabetes and heart disease.
Resistance training achieved no significant reductions in visceral fat, liver fat, liver enzyme levels or improvements in insulin resistance. "Resistance training is great for improving strength and increasing lean body mass," says Slentz. "But if you are overweight, which two thirds of the population is, and you want to lose belly fat, aerobic exercise is the better choice because it burns more calories." Aerobic training burned 67 percent more calories in the study when compared to resistance training.
While the training programs were rigorous and substantial, Slentz says their previous research leads him to believe similar results could be achieved with a more moderate aerobic exercise program. "What really counts is how much exercise you do, how many miles you walk and how many calories you burn," he says. "If you choose to work at a lower aerobic intensity, it will simply take longer to burn the same amount of unhealthy fat."
Weight Watchers Versus The Gym
Exercise addiction similar to heroin
Maternal fat found to handicap embryo development
Yo-yo dieting not so dangerous
Source: Duke University Medical Center