Weight training wards off age-related abdominal fat better than aerobic activity


Weight training for 20 minutes per day helped healthy men stave off age-related abdominal fat gain better than engaging in aerobic activities for the same amount of time, according to research published in Obesity.

Although aerobic exercise alone was associated with less weight gain than weight training overall, a combination of the two optimized waist circumference results, Harvard School of Public Health researchers and colleagues found.

“To combat sarcopenia that is inevitable with aging, older adults are recommended to engage in physical activities that achieve the most favorable changes in their body composition, such as loss of fat mass while preserving lean body mass,” Rania Mekary, PhD, of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard, told Endocrine Today.

“Because long-term weight training leads to this concomitant fat loss and muscle gain, this has been shown to prevent and treat many chronic diseases, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis,” she said.

Mekary, with Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD, and colleagues, prospectively examined the effects of weight training, moderate to vigorous aerobic activity and replacement between the two on waist circumference and body weight in 10,500 healthy men (mean age 58±7) from the ongoing Health Professionals Follow-up Study over 12 years.

All participants were followed through mailed biennial questionnaires regarding medical history, lifestyle and health-related behaviors, including physical activity. Multiple linear regression models (partition/substitution) were used to assess associations; diet components known to predict weight gain, smoking status, antidepressant use, sleep duration and baseline age were considered.

With adjustments for potential confounders, an inverse dose-response relationship was seen between weight training and waist circumference change (P-trend <.001). Less age-associated waist circumference increase was seen when activity was increased 20 minutes per day; the benefit was stronger for weight training (–0.67 cm; 95% CI, –0.93 to –0.41) than for moderate to vigorous aerobic activity (–0.33 cm; 95% CI, –0.40 to –0.27), other activities (–0.16 cm; 95% CI, –0.28 to –0.03) or television watching (0.08 cm; 95% CI, 0.05–0.12).

The strongest inverse association with waist circumference change was seen when weight training for 20 minutes per day was substituted for any other discretionary activity. Moderate to vigorous aerobic activity showed the strongest inverse association with body weight change (–0.23 kg; 95% CI, –0.29 to –0.17).

“Incorporating weight training with aerobic exercise is crucial to maintain a healthy waistline,” Mekary said. “Further studies are needed among women, older men, and other ethnic groups to compare the frequency and volume of weight training on waist circumference change.” — by Allegra Tiver

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