In a recent study from Wake Forest University, researchers found that weight training is more effective than cardio for older people.
It is known that regular exercise is an important way to maintain physical and mental health.
Many people believe that cardio exercise, like running, walking and cycling, are the best for them to keep a healthy weight.
But in the current study, the researchers showed that combining weight training with a low-calorie diet could preserve lean muscle mass that can be lost through aerobic workouts.
In the study, 249 adults in their 60s who were overweight or obese joined in workout programs for 18 months.
The participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: a diet-only group, who followed a low-calorie diet with no exercise; a dieting + cardio (i.e., walking) group; and a dieting + weight-training group.
The researchers found that restricting calories plus weight training resulted in less muscle loss, but significant fat loss, when compared to dieting plus walking or dieting alone.
Surprisingly, cardio workouts actually caused older adults with obesity to lose more lean muscle mass than dieting alone.
The researchers suggest that losing weight is generally recommended for those with obesity.
However, preserving muscle – while losing fat – is particularly important for older adults to maximize functional benefit.
This is because the loss of lean mass could increase the risk of physical disability among older adults.
Loss of fat was linked to faster-walking speed, while the loss of muscle was associated with reduced knee strength.
These findings may be even more important for people who gain and lose weight frequently,
Older people typically don’t regain muscle – they regain fat mass – which is “all the more reason for older adults to try and preserve muscle mass during weight loss.
The lead author of the study is Kristen Beavers, assistant professor of health and exercise science at Wake Forest.
The study is published in the journal Obesity.
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