Aerobic exercise is better than resistance training if you want to lose the belly fat that poses a serious threat to your health, researchers say.
That's the finding of their eight-month study that compared the effectiveness of aerobic exercise (such as jogging), resistance training (such as weight lifting), or a combination of the two activities in 196 overweight, sedentary adults aged 18 to 70.
The participants in the aerobic group did the equivalent of 12 miles of jogging per week at 80 percent maximum heart rate, while those in the resistance group did three sets of eight to 12 repetitions three times per week.
The Duke University Medical Center researchers looked at how these types of exercise reduced the fat that's deep within the abdomen and fills the spaces between internal organs. This type of fat -- called visceral and liver fat -- is associated with increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer.
Aerobic exercise significantly reduced visceral and liver fat and improved risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, such as insulin resistance, liver enzymes and triglyceride levels. Resistance training didn't deliver these benefits. Aerobic exercise plus resistance training achieved results similar to aerobic exercise alone, the investigators found.
"Resistance training is great for improving strength and increasing lean body mass," lead author and exercise physiologist Cris Slentz said in a Duke news release. "But if you are overweight, which two-thirds of the population is, and you want to lose belly fat, aerobic exercise is the better choice because it burns more calories."
Aerobic exercise burned 67 percent more calories than resistance training, the researchers found.
The study was published in the Aug. 25 issue of the American Journal of Physiology.