Exercise is a crucial component of an all-around healthy lifestyle, benefitting everything from our mental health and cardiovascular function to our ability to perform daily activities with ease (increasingly important as we get older) and self-confidence. Of course, it also happens to be good news for our waistlines—a perk that can’t be overlooked, considering an estimated 74 percent of Americans over age 20 are considered overweight.
Though no one will argue with the idea that exercise is helpful for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, there’s been no shortage of debate over the years about why type of exercise reigns supreme.
Since the days of step aerobics, resistance training has grown far beyond its bodybuilder roots, inspiring all sorts of different workout trends and fitness classes, and becoming popular amongst people of all walks of life. All the while, the body of research supporting resistance training’s plethora of benefits—including weight loss—has grown immensely.
Now, large-scale research confirms just how impactful this form of exercise is in the weight-loss department.
A recent meta-analysis and systematic review published in Obesity Reports compiled the findings of 114 studies on resistance training-based exercise programs and body weight, body composition (lean tissue versus fat), and regional adiposity (the amount of fat in certain areas, like the midsection) in order to better understand the big picture of their effectiveness.
And the findings? Pretty impressive.
The researchers’ primary takeaway: That resistance training-based exercise programs effectively help people with overweight or obesity shed body fat—and decrease their body weight—regardless of their age or sex. (Resistance training plus calorie restriction proved to be the ideal approach.) This type of exercise also stands out from the crowd when it comes to increasing lean mass (a.k.a. building muscle) and holding onto lean mass when restricting calories, which is common practice among those looking to lose weight.
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Interestingly, the researchers also observed that middle-aged and older adults experienced the greatest change in regional adiposity (think midsection body fat) when participating in resistance training.
If there was any doubt in your mind that resistance training is a must, not only for its ability to boost your mood, slash your risk of chronic health conditions, and support healthy bones, but also for its unmatched impact on body composition, you can go ahead and put that to bed.
In fact, the evidence supporting the incredible benefits of resistance training for those with overweight or obesity is so strong that the researchers conclude, “These results are clinically relevant and can be immediately used to improve current practice by expanding the exercise modalities within multicomponent therapy programs targeting obesity.”
It’s an important conclusion, considering cardio has so long been the go-to for those looking to lose weight. So, whether you’re starting with simple bodyweight moves, hitting the weight room, or DIYing it with a loaded backpack in your garage, embrace the resistance, folks!