Weight training helps maintain muscle mass in overweight adults

In the journals

Published: March, 2018

Image: © Robert Daly/Getty Images

Cardio is often regarded as the exercise of choice for weight loss, but older adults can benefit from adding weight lifting too, as it helps preserve muscle mass more than aerobic workouts.

A study published online Oct. 30, 2017, by the journal Obesity divided 249 overweight or obese adults in their 60s into three groups. One followed a restrictive diet of 1,200 to 1,800 daily calories. Another followed the diet and also did weight-machine workouts (four 45-minute sessions per week, targeting the major muscle groups). The third group followed the diet plus a cardio program of walking (45 minutes, four days a week, at a moderate-intensity level).

Over 18 months, people in both the weight training and cardio groups lost an average of 16 to 17 pounds each, while those in the diet group lost about 10 pounds each. The participants in the two exercise groups lost more fat, but they also lost a bit more muscle mass than those following only a weight loss diet. Compared with walking, weight training preserved more muscle mass.

The researchers also evaluated muscle strength in the legs, which improved with both the walking program and weight training. Weight training added to weight-loss efforts, especially when combined with modest aerobic exercise, offers the best approach to maximize potential health benefits.

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