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Can Resistance Training Lead to Weight Loss?

woman with Purple weights

Including resistance training as part of one’s weight loss program offers benefits 

There are many factors that contribute to weight loss and weight gain. Living with an unhealthy  weight isn’t just a matter of an energy imbalance — taking in more energy than is expended. Now we know that weight gain is multifactorial and that genetics, environment, physiological, behavioral, and sociocultural factors all play a large role. Lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise are often the most effective interventions. Aerobic exercises like walking, jogging, swimming, and cycling, are often recommended as a primary approach to weight loss, while resistance exercise, (performing repeated movements against resistance) have received less attention. There is now evidence that suggests resistance training rather than aerobic exercise alone, may be a valuable addition to a weight loss program for patients with obesity. 

Resistance Training and Lean or Fat Mass

While clinicians routinely use BMI and body weight as common metrics to assess health, neither differentiates between fat mass and lean mass (the total weight of your body minus all the weight due to your fat mass). This makes it difficult to assess whether  resistance exercises, when combined with other types of exercise and dietary interventions, leads to “weight loss”. Resistance training leads to an increase of lean body mass, or muscle, a known indicator of metabolic health and physical function, therefore only measuring weight loss by itself may be misleading. 


The Role of Resistance Training in Weight Loss

Recent studies have shown that resistance training and resistance training combined with aerobic exercises significantly reduced fat mass. The studies also found promising results in combining resistance training and low calorie diets for adults with obesity. This is important for metabolic health, which lowers one’s risk for hypertension and cardiovascular disease for obese adults. Fat loss was observed in both subcutaneous adipose (fat tissue beneath the skin) and in visceral adipose tissue (fat tissue lining internal organs) when resistance training was paired with aerobic exercise. Clinicians should encourage obese patients to include this as part of their weight loss management strategy as this can mitigate the complications associated with fat mass and being overweight.


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