Which Type of Exercise Is Best for Quick Weight Loss?

A new study compares the results of aerobic exercise and resistance training.

A new study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology says that when short on time, aerobic exercise is the best way to reduce body mass and fat. Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock.

A new study has determined what personal trainers have been telling us for a while now: To lose weight, aerobic exercise is your best bet—at least in the short term.

The study, thought to be the largest of its kind, compared changes in body composition among men and women after a period of exercise that involved aerobic exercise, resistance training, or both. Researchers at Duke University Medical Center wanted to determine which mode of exercise provided the most bang for your buck for weight loss and fat reduction.

Study participants included 119 obese, overweight, or sedentary men and women, who were split into three groups. The first group was assigned to an eight-month exercise regimen that involved three days per week of aerobic training on a treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike. The second performed only resistance training, steadily increasing the weight as the weeks wore on. The third group was required to do a combination of both aerobic and resistance training.

Results showed that those who did aerobic or aerobic and resistance training lost a significant amount of body mass and fat mass, and reduced their weight circumferences. However, those who only performed resistance training experienced no weight loss. In fact, that group gained weight, since their lean body mass significantly increased.

Overall, the group who performed both aerobic and resistance training lost the most inches off their waists and decreased their body fat percentage more than the other two groups.

The somewhat surprising finding, however, was that although the combined exercise program resulted in the most weight loss, the results were not significantly better than the aerobic-only group. That said, researchers concluded that when time is limited, aerobic exercise is “the optimal mode of exercise for reducing fat mass and body mass.”

So if you’re aiming to lose a significant amount of weight this year, it might be in your best interest to start off with an aerobic training program. Once the pounds are shed, a resistance training program should be included to increase lean mass and tone muscles.

The full study is available online in the Journal of Applied Physiology