What Exercise Is Best for Weight Loss?
Most experts advise that it’s best to combine diet and exercise when it comes to weight loss efforts. Eating right is important, but so too is physical activity. Reducing calorie intake, and boosting calorie burning through exercise makes sense. But what type of exercise is best for maximizing weight loss? The choices come down to strength training—think working with weights—and endurance training, such as swimming or jogging for long stretches. Or is it a combination of the two?
To find out, Spanish investigators recruited nearly 100 obese, adult men and women. All were placed on a low-calorie diet. But subjects were also randomly assigned to perform various types of exercise exclusively. Some subjects engaged in endurance exercise alone, such as walking or riding a stationary bike. Others were assigned to perform strength-training exercises, such as shoulder press, squats, barbell row, biceps curl, lateral split, front split, bench press and French press. A third group was assigned to do a combination of these two forms of exercise on a regular basis.
All subjects exercised three times weekly, for the same amount of time, and at similar intensities. A fourth group simply followed government-sponsored guidelines for meeting minimal daily activity goals. They were advised to walk more, and take the stairs instead of the elevator, for example.
So which regimen led to the most dramatic weight loss? Investigators delved even deeper than that, looking at specifics such as significant reductions in body weight, body mass index, waist circumference, total fat mass, and a significant increase in lean mass. As it turns out, everyone involved fared well. The type of exercise combined with a low-calorie diet didn’t appear to make much difference. All approaches worked about equally well.
"To our knowledge, this is the first clinical trial designed to examine the effect of different physical activity interventions, in combination with a [low-calorie] diet, on body weight and composition variables in obese Spanish people," the research team wrote. "The present study shows that, when adhered to alongside a hypocaloric diet, different exercise training programs (endurance, strength, or their combination) or the following of physical activity recommendations are equally efficient in terms of improving body weight and body composition variables in obesity management.”
Pedro J. Benito, Laura M. Bermejo, Ana B. Peinado, Bricia López-Plaza, Rocío Cupeiro, Barbara Szendrei, Francisco J. Calderón, Eliane A. Castro, Carmen Gómez-Candela. Change in weight and body composition in obese subjects following a hypocaloric diet plus different training programs or physical activity recommendations. Journal of Applied Physiology, 2015; 118 (8): 1006 DOI: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00928.2014