Best for Fat Loss: Cardio or Strength Training?

A recent Duke study's findings might surprise you on which form of exercise produces the fastest results.

With over two-thirds of adults overweight with excess body fat, it has almost become a national obsession to lose weight and get fit.  Too many books and TV shows confuse people with options and theories, and many become overwhelmed with partial or misinformation and end up feeling stressed and confused.

Aerobic Exercise like Dance Class Most Efficient for Fat Loss
Aerobic Exercise like Dance Class Most Efficient for Fat Loss
Exercise can basically be broken down into two groups, aerobic and strength building.  Aerobic training refers to cardio training, exercises that increase your heart rate, stamina, and the health of your heart.  These can be exercises ranging anywhere from group classes, such as Zumba, spinning, and aerobics, to more solitary pursuits such as jogging.  They are attractive to many people because they do not require any specialized equipment except maybe a good pair of shoes.

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Weight training also called strength training, refers to training with machines & weights. Exercises which, in general, do not increase the heart rate but focus on increasing strength and lean body mass.

Recently a Duke University Medical Center study examined the effects of aerobic exercise and resistance training on fat mass in overweight adults.  The Duke fat loss study results--aerobic exercise trumped both the weight training and a combination of the two for fat loss.

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There were three groups in the Duke study.  The first group just did aerobic exercises, the second only weight training, and the third (who exercised twice as much) did both.  Although the group that did both lost the most fat, the results weren't proportionate to the amount of additional time in the gym. The group that did only aerobics, lost more fat for the amount of effort than the other two groups.

The study showed that there is no one program for everyone and that the fat loss was age specific.  Older adults with decreased muscle, found resistance training to be beneficial because it added muscle mass and strength.  Younger adults seemed to lose more fat with the aerobic exercises.

When looking for a workout program, with your main goal to lose fat, you want to be sure that it is balanced to avoid losing ground in other areas.  Losing fat is not so attractive if you are also losing muscle or damaging your joints.

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You may also consider the fact that different exercises appeal to different people.  Swimming, for example, has been found to be easier on the joints of arthritis sufferers but doesn't work well for a non-swimmer.  Jogging also may not work for someone with knee replacements. 

When considering all the exercise options open to you, you may want to take into consideration the results of the Duke study and then plan a well balanced regimen that will benefit YOU the most.