- A new study has found that strength training can help you burn fat and lose weight just as effectively as cardio.
- Experts say the key to losing weight is to lose calories, or eat less than you burn.
- Weightlifting and other strength training exercises can help keep your metabolic rate high by building muscle as well.
Strength training can be an effective way to achieve this
suggests new research.
Resistance exercises such as weightlifting, along with a calorie deficit, help burn fat and reduce body fat percentage, according to a study published April 11 in Obesity Reviews.
Researchers from Edith Queen University in Australia and Universidad Caxias do Sul in Brazil analyzed data from a total of 4,184 participants across 116 published studies on exercise and weight loss to see if resistance exercises such as weightlifting might help with weight loss.
They found that the combination of resistance training and calorie reduction was an effective weight loss strategy, resulting in an average weight loss of 12 pounds.
The findings debunk legendary cardio exercises like running or HIIT as the only way to lose weight, according to Pedro Lopez, principal investigator and doctoral student at Edith Quinn University.
“Usually when we talk about obesity, body composition or weight loss, we only hear about aerobic exercise,” he said in a press release.
The research could help provide an alternative to cardio exercise like running, which can put stress on the knees and other joints, so more people can benefit from exercise, including people who are obese and looking to lose weight, Lopez said.
For weight loss, calorie deficit is key
However, the caveat from the research is that exercise alone may not help with weight loss without proper nutrition.
Weight loss in the study was associated with a calorie deficit, or eating on average fewer calories than you burn with exercise.
“If you want to lose weight, you have to reduce the amount of calories you eat,” Lopez said.
Experts say that while a calorie deficit is essential to losing weight and burning fat, the ways to create a calorie deficit can vary. Calorie-reducing strategies include keeping track of what you eat, reducing portion sizes, adding more high-volume foods like vegetables, or trying a diet that helps you eat less through other means such as low-carb or intermittent fasting.
Previous research suggests that a calorie deficit can also come from adding more physical activity to your day, from walking to gym sessions, although exercise alone is rarely enough for long-term weight loss.
Lifting weights also helps build muscle, which can speed up your metabolism
The latest study also found that resistance training was more effective for building muscle, as well as maintaining muscle during weight loss.
Usually when people strive to lose weight, the goal is to lose body fat, not lean mass like muscle. Muscle tissue is important not only for strength and fitness, but also for metabolic health.
The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, which means that lifting weights is a great way to build up your metabolism over time, according to personal trainers. It’s also a myth that lifting weights makes you bulky without even trying, because building muscle takes time and effort.
Other evidence-based benefits of strength training include strengthening the heart and joints, increasing confidence, improving body image, and reducing the risk of diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
You don’t have to be a gym mouse to start with dumbbells, barbells, or kettle bells, either — you can learn to lift weights even without prior strength-training experience, according to personal trainers.
You can also start strength training with body weight exercises such as pull-ups, push-ups, and squats, without the need for a gym.
No matter what equipment you use, strength exercises can match your experience and skills, so you can get the most out of your workouts regardless of your fitness level.