Monday, January 5, 2015

Weight Training Key to Battling Belly Fat as You Age

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found that combining aerobic activities with weight, or resistance training is key to preserving muscle and avoiding weight gain, particularly age-related belly fat.

“Because aging is associated with sarcopenia, the loss of skeletal muscle mass, relying on body weight alone is insufficient for the study of healthy aging,” study author Rania Mekary, a researcher at Harvard’s department of nutrition, said in a university news release.

Measuring waist circumference is a better indicator of healthy body composition among older adults,” Mekary explained. “Engaging in resistance training or, ideally, combining it with aerobic exercise could help older adults lessen abdominal fat while increasing or preserving muscle mass.”

The long-term study was conducted between 1996 and 2008. It included more than 10,000 healthy men aged 40 or older whole body mass indexes (BMI) varied widely. BMI measures body fat by looking at weight and height.
The researchers analyzed the men’s physical activity, weight and waist circumference to determine which exercises had the most significant effect on the men’s waistlines, or the amount of belly fat they had.

The men who did 20 minutes of weight training daily had a smaller increase in belly fat than the men who spent the same amount of time engaging in moderate to vigorous aerobic activities, such as stair climbing and yard work, the study, published online December 22nd in the journal Obesity, found.

Meanwhile, the men who became more sedentary over the course of the 12-Year study had a larger increase in body fat.

“This study underscores the importance of weight training in reducing abdominal obesity, especially among the elderly,” study senior author Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology, said in the Harvard news release. “To maintain a healthy weight and waistline, it is critical to incorporate weight training with aerobic exercise.”

My Take:
Sports medicine research has supported the value of combining both aerobic and anaerobic exercise as the best conditioning format for athletes for many years. This study on health and aging expands this concept to the general public and specifically to aging males.

Central obesity, the tendency to gain weight around the middle of the body, is an excellent predictor of general health and mortality. It is one of the major factors associated with metabolic syndrome – the precursor to both diabetes and heart attack.

As an “aging male” I too have found that aerobic exercise alone will not keep that belly fat away, so I returned to weight lifting a couple of months ago. I don’t really enjoy weight lifting, but the benefits can be seen after just a couple of workouts. To ease the pain and boredom, I generally limit the workouts to 20 minutes and vary the routine as much as possible.

I recommend you divide your workouts by muscle groups. So one day work the chest and triceps, the next the back and biceps, with a third workout for legs. Try to do some abdominal exercises every workout, just vary the exercise. We all hate working the abs, but they need the most help. I highly suggest that you avoid any shoulder workout until you have been consistently lifting for at least six weeks. Most of us have sustained some shoulder injury during our life and many don’t even remember the injury. Six weeks of weight training prior to adding any shoulder exercises will increase your general strength and hopefully avoid re-injury to a vulnerable shoulder.

The Bottom Line:
Please add some weight lifting or resistance exercise to your fitness regime this year. It only takes 20 minutes, 3 or 4 times a week to see some significant improvement. Monitor your waist circumference (at the level of the umbilicus) to gauge your response.

Source: Monday, December 22, 2014- National Institutes of Health

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