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Getting Thinner: Weight Training vs. Aerobics

You only have so much time in a day. We get it. Every temptation around us and every influence looks like something that will take away physical activity and add calories

This puts modern people over the age of 30 on perpetual guard against excess weight. So, if we are targeting getting thin or staying thin, and we only have a limited number of precious minutes in a day for exercise, what is the best exercise? The debate has raged for decades, but a study recently published in the peer-reviewed journal, Obesity, measured a simple answer.

Researchers analyzed data from thousands of surveys in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. They gathered 10,500 lifestyle surveys provided by men in the United States between 1996 and 2008. They found that substituting 20 minutes per day of weight training for some other activity was more strongly associated with decreases in waist circumference than any other substitution, including aerobics.

But wait; there’s more. Most people get on scales to assess their progress rather than rolling out the tape measure. What about weight? This research found that moderate to vigorous aerobic activity had the strongest association with decreasing body weight.

Weight training might actually increase body mass while burning fat due to increases in lean muscle mass. Muscle weighs more than fat. The answer to this long-raging debate may be that aerobics loses weight while weight training thins the waist. However, the most important answer is do what you love. The exercise that you want to do is the best one for you. Have fun out there!


Mekary RA, Grøntved A, Despres JP, De Moura LP, Asgarzadeh M, Willett WC, Rimm EB, Giovannucci E, Hu FB. Weight training, aerobic physical activities, and long‐term waist circumference change in men. Obesity. 2015 Feb;23(2):461-7.

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