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Pumping iron beats cardio

Lifting weights might be the way to go, especially when you get older.

A new study suggests combining weight training with a low-calorie diet preserves much needed lean muscle mass in older individuals that can be otherwise lost through cardiovascular workouts.

“A lot of older adults will walk as their exercise of choice,” said Kristen Beavers, lead author of the study. “But this research shows that if you’re worried about losing muscle, weight training can be the better option.”

According to Beavers losing weight is generally recommended for those with obesity, but preserving muscle — while losing fat — is particularly important for older adults in order to maximize functional benefit.

“Surprisingly, we found that cardio workouts may actually cause older adults with obesity to lose more lean mass than dieting alone.”

The findings of the study highlighted the following:

  • Total fat loss was much greater when participants in the study combined diet plus walking and diet plus weight training.
  • Muscle mass loss was greatest with diet plus walking compared with diet alone or diet plus weight training. The percentage of weight loss coming from muscle mass was 20% in the weight loss plus walking group, 16% in the weight loss alone group, and 10% in the weight loss plus weight training group.
  • Loss of fat was associated with faster walking speed, while loss of muscle was associated with reduced knee strength.

The study was conducted by American scientists at the Wake Forest University who assigned participants to one of three groups: a weight-loss-only group, who followed a calorie-restricted diet with no exercise regimen; a weight loss plus cardio (i.e., walking) group; and a weight loss plus weight-training group.

 

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