What is resistance training?
Resistance training is a type of anaerobic physical activity that consists in performing repeated sets of exercises against a resistance. The resistance is commonly represented by the oppositional force of equipment or the body itself. It is beneficial in increasing strength and muscle size. Examples of resistance training include high intensity interval training, plyometrics, Pilates, yoga, and strength training.
Is resistance training good for weight loss?
Current clinical guidelines for obesity management primarily recommend cardio exercises for weight loss.1 It is advised to pair resistance training to aerobic exercise for lean mass preservation, insulin resistance regulation, and cardiovascular fitness.1 But current guidelines do not deem the level of evidence sufficient to recommend resistance training with the same importance of aerobic exercises.1
However, the results from a recent systematic review by Lopez et al 2022 might suggest a greater importance of resistance training than currently recommended. The review evaluated whether resistance training is good for weight loss by investigating the effect of resistance training on BMI, weight and fat loss and body composition in overweight individuals.2 The type of interventions studied included:
- Resistance training alone
- Resistance training combined with aerobic exercise
- Resistance training combined with aerobic exercise and dietary restriction
- Resistance training combined with dietary restriction
1. The study found that resistance training was effective in reducing both fat mass and body fat percentage.2 Resistance training combined with dietary restriction was found to be the most effective intervention to reduce body fat percentage.2 Instead, resistance training combined with dietary restriction only and resistance training combined with aerobic exercise and dietary restriction were the most effective in reducing fat mass.2
2. Resistance training alone or in combination with aerobic exercise was found to be effective to reduce adipose deposits and visceral fats especially in middle-age and old age.2
3. Resistance training was found to increase lean mass in all age groups across the life span.2 In particular, resistance training alone and resistance training combined with aerobic exercise were the best interventions in relation to lean mass.2 On the other hand, resistance training combined with dietary restrictions only as well as resistance training combined with aerobic exercise and dietary restrictions were not determined to be effective interventions in preserving lean mass.2
4. Resistance training was found to reduce body weight in all age groups but BMI only in adult age.2 Resistance training combined with caloric restriction only and resistance training combined with aerobic exercise and caloric restriction were the most effective interventions in reducing body weight.2 Resistance training combined with aerobic exercise and caloric restrictions and resistance training combined with aerobic exercise only were the most effective interventions in reducing BMI.2
The results of this study suggested that resistance training programs could be a good option for weight and fat loss and cardiometabolic health when integrated in multicomponent therapy programs.2 Additionally, this systematic review found that resistance-based programs were comparable to aerobic-based programs when it came to body fat and weight loss and had a unique effect when it came to lean mass and muscle maintenance.2
Although resistance training was generally associated with greater effects when combined with other interventions, it was found to be the beneficial for body composition and lean mass maintenance on its own.2 This has significant health implications that could benefit overall physical functioning and quality of life across the life span.2 Resistance training alone could potentially be sufficient to reduce chronic inflammation associated with obesity.2
Building muscles could be beneficial also for long term fat loss
It has been found that resistance training increases resting metabolic rate; the same was not true for aerobic exercises.3 Resting metabolic rate is a parameter to measure the amount of calories consumed by the body to function at rest 4 and it normally accounts for 60% of total energy expended.4 Body composition and fat-to-muscle ratio is important because muscles are responsible for greater metabolic energy expended compared to fat cells.4
Is resistance training good for weight loss?
Summing up, building muscles through even brief resistance training that engage largest muscle groups through whole body exercises could not only be good for weight loss but also help sustaining long-term weight maintenance through a beneficial impact on energy balance and fat metabolism.5
1. Oppert, J. M., Bellicha, A., van Baak, M. A., Battista, F., Beaulieu, K., Blundell, J. E., Carraça, E. V., Encantado, J., Ermolao, A., Pramono, A., Farpour-Lambert, N., Woodward, E., Dicker, D., & Busetto, L. (2021). Exercise training in the management of overweight and obesity in adults: Synthesis of the evidence and recommendations from the European Association for the Study of Obesity Physical Activity Working Group. Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 22 Suppl 4(Suppl 4), e13273. https://doi.org/10.1111/obr.13273
2. Lopez, P., Taaffe, D. R., Galvão, D. A., Newton, R. U., Nonemacher, E. R., Wendt, V. M., Bassanesi, R. N., Turella, D., & Rech, A. (2022). Resistance training effectiveness on body composition and body weight outcomes in individuals with overweight and obesity across the lifespan: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 23(5), e13428. https://doi.org/10.1111/obr.13428
3. MacKenzie-Shalders, K., Kelly, J. T., So, D., Coffey, V. G., & Byrne, N. M. (2020). The effect of exercise interventions on resting metabolic rate: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of sports sciences, 38(14), 1635–1649. https://doi.org/10.1080/02640414.2020.1754716
5. Kirk, E. P., Donnelly, J. E., Smith, B. K., Honas, J., Lecheminant, J. D., Bailey, B. W., Jacobsen, D. J., & Washburn, R. A. (2009). Minimal resistance training improves daily energy expenditure and fat oxidation. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 41(5), 1122–1129. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0b013e318193c64e
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