Aerobic exercise bests resistance training at burning belly fat

When Duke Universi ty Medical Center researchers conducted a head-to-head comparison of aerobic exercise, resistance training, and a combination of the two, they found aerobic exercise to be the most efficient and most effective way to lose the belly fat that’s most damaging to your health.

This isn’t the fat that lies just under your skin and causes the dreaded muffin top. Belly or abdominal fat - known in scientific communities 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.

The Duke study showed aerobic training significantly reduced visceral fat and liver fat, the culprit in nonalcoholic 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. The combination of aerobic with resistance training achieved results similar to aerobic training alone.

Aerobic training burned 67 percent more calories in the study when compared to resistance training.

The eight-month study followed 196 overweight, sedentary adults (ages 18 to 70) who were randomized to one of three groups: aerobic training; resistance training or a combination of the two.

The aerobic group performed exercises equivalent to 12 miles of jogging per week at 80-percent maximum heart rate. The resistance group performed three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions three times per week.

All programs were closely supervised and monitored to ensure maximum effort in participation.

“What really counts is how much exercise you do, how many miles you walk, and how many calories you burn,” says Duke exercise physiologist Cris Slentz, Ph.D. “If you choose to work at a lower aerobic intensity, it will simply take longer to burn the same amount of unhealthy fat.”

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