- Strength training can help you burn fat and lose weight as effectively as cardio, new research suggests.
- The key to losing weight is a calorie deficit, or eating less than you burn, experts say.
- Lifting weights and other strength exercise can help keep your metabolism high by building muscle too.
Strength training can be an effective way to
, new research suggests.
Resistance exercise like lifting weights, in combination with a calorie deficit, helps burn fat and reduce body fat percentage, according to a study published April 11 in Obesity Reviews.
Researchers from Edith Cowen University in Australia and the University of Caxias do Sul in Brazil analyzed data from 4184 total participants across 116 published studies on exercise and weight loss to find out if resistance training like lifting weights might aid weight loss.
They found that combining resistance training with calorie reduction was an effective weight loss strategy, leading to an average of 12 pounds of weight loss.
The findings debunk the myth cardio exercises like running or HIIT are the only way to lose weight, according to Pedro Lopez, lead researcher and PhD student at Edith Cowen University.
“Usually when we talk about obesity, body composition or weight loss, we only hear about aerobic exercise,” he said in a press release.
The research could help provide an alternative to cardio exercise like running, which can stress the knees and other joints, so more people can benefit from exercise, including people with obesity looking to lose weight, Lopez said.
For weight loss, a calorie deficit is key
A caveat to the research, however, is that exercise alone may not help with weight loss without proper nutrition.
Weight loss in the study was tied to a calorie deficit, or eating fewer calories on average than you burn off with exercise.
“If you want to lose weight, you have to reduce your calorie intake,” Lopez said.
Experts say that while a calorie deficit is essential for weight loss and fat burning, methods of creating a calorie deficit can vary. Strategies to cut calories include tracking what you eat, reducing portion sizes, adding more high-volume foods like veggies, or trying a diet that helps you eat less by other means such as low carb or intermittent fasting.
A calorie deficit can also come from adding more physical activity to your day, from walking to gym sessions, although exercise alone is rarely enough for long-term weight loss, previous research suggests.
Lifting weights also helps build muscle, which can rev up metabolism
Typically when people seek to lose weight, the goal is to lose body fat, not lean mass such as muscle. Muscle tissue is important not just for strength and athleticism, but also metabolic health.
The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, which means weight lifting is a great way to build your metabolism over time, according to personal trainers. It’s also a myth that weight lifting makes you bulky without trying, since muscle takes time and effort to build.
Other evidence-based benefits of strength training include a stronger heart and joints, more confidence and better body image, and lower risk of illnesses like cancer and heart disease.
You don’t have to be a gym rat to get started with dumbbells, barbells or kettle bells, either — you can learn to lift weights even without prior strength training experience, according to personal trainers.
No matter what equipment you use, strength training exercises can be scaled to your experience and skill, so you can make the most of your workouts regardless of your fitness level.