The type of exercise — strength training, endurance exercise or a combination — included in a program of diet and fitness to fight obesity is less important than previously thought, according to a new study.
A combined program of diet and fitness is widely recommended by medical experts to fight obesity. However, opinions varied on which type of exercise was most effective, according to a news release.
In the new clinical study, a team of Spanish researchers working as part of the Nutrition and Physical Activity Programs for Obesity Treatment project aimed to measure each exercise type’s effectiveness.
The findings were published April 15 in the Journal of Applied Physiology.
Researchers from the Technical University of Madrid and La Paz University Hospital set out to measure whether the type of exercise combined with diet made a significant difference on body weight and body composition.
For the study, the team followed 96 obese participants (48 men and 48 women) ages 18-50 through a 22-week supervised program. All participants followed a similar reduced-calorie diet. The diet was measured to provide each person with 30% fewer calories than he or she burned each day.
Participants also were assigned randomly to follow one of three different types of exercise training programs or to follow the American College of Sports Medicine recommendations for weekly physical activity. Subjects assigned to exercise training groups performed either endurance exercise alone (their choice of running, elliptical or cycling); strength exercises alone (shoulder press, squats, barbell row, biceps curl, lateral split, front split, bench press and French press); or a combination of strength and endurance exercises (choice of cycling, treadmill or elliptical plus squats, rowing machine, bench press and front split). All participants performed their exercise programs three times a week for the same length of time and at the same intensity (51 minutes at 50% intensity during weeks two through five; 50 minutes at 60% intensity in weeks six through 14; 60 minutes at 60% intensity in weeks 15 through 22).
Participants following the physical activity guidelines were advised to get 30-60 minutes of exercise on most, if not all, days of the week for a total of 200-300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity. They also were encouraged to swap walking for driving, take the stairs instead of the elevator and to undergo other lifestyle interventions to increase daily activity.
The findings showed the outcomes for the participants — including significant reductions in body weight, body mass index, waist circumference and total fat mass, and a significant increase in lean mass — were positive across the board despite the differences in the type of exercise performed.
“To our knowledge, this is the first clinical trial designed to examine the effect of different physical activity interventions, in combination with a hypocaloric diet, on body weight and composition variables in obese Spanish people,” the researchers wrote. “The present study shows that, when adhered to alongside a hypocaloric diet, different exercise training programs (endurance, strength or their combination) or the following of physical activity recommendations are equally efficient in terms of improving body weight and body composition variables in obesity management.”
Full study: http://jap.physiology.org/content/118/8/1006