It’s a new year and thousands of people across the world are no doubt trying to shift their Christmas weight, but what’s the best exercise for battling the bulge?
Matthew Haines, a senior lecturer in health and wellbeing at the University of Huddersfield, says that the debate over whether we should be lifting weights or hitting the treadmill divides fitness fanatics.
In an article he wrote for The Conversation, he explained that endurance-type exercise like running or cycling burn more calories, but resistance training like weight-lifting raises the metabolism for days afterwards.
There’s also a third option, a combination of the two. High-intensity interval training, where you do short bursts of extremely difficult exercise, has been shown to both raise your metabolism and burn body fat.
Haines says that endurance-type exercise done at a moderate intensity is the most obvious way to lose weight because this type of activity uses more energy than resistance training.
However, he claims that others will stress the importance of resistance training and its effects on basal metabolic rate (BMR). A single bout of resistance exercise leads to a sustained increase in metabolism that will last for up to 48 hours after exercise.
Furthermore, increases in BMR have been observed after ten weeks of resistance training so it may assist in long term weight control.
Resistance training, he says, has this effect because muscle tissue is denser than fat tissue and is therefore more “expensive to run” meaning it burns more calories.
The final option is high-intensity interval training or HIIT. This is where exercise is carried out at a low or moderate intensity but with several short bouts of high-intensity, ‘all-out’, exercise. It’s believed to be more time-efficient and research shows this type of training can potentially bring about quick beneficial changes in metabolism and even reduce body fat. However, Haines says that the gruelling nature of such exercise is likely ‘intolerable for many people’ .
But to answer the all-important question of what’s the best exercise, well Haines’ answer is clear.
Most people will not sustain a behaviour from which they derive no pleasure. The incentives for losing weight are obvious, but human behaviour is unpredictable when pleasure is involved. The optimum approach is probably to combine different types of exercise to receive the benefit of each.
The best type of exercise for losing weight is the one that you will actually do. Alongside this, some form of conscious control over energy intake must be considered because the reality for many is that a considerable volume of exercise is required to significantly reduce body fat.
Exercise-induced weight loss also varies markedly between individuals, with behavioural, biological and genetic factors also playing their part.
Essentially, be sensible with your eating and exercise in a way that you prefer. That way you’ll be able to stick it for longer and hopefully shift a bit of weight. Simple, really.