You Should Probably Be Lifting Weights

Large man lifting weights
Photo: Peter Muller/Corbis

Because it’s the time of year during which we think about such things, let’s consider your belly fat for a minute. Cruelly, belly fat is not only unattractive to look at, it’s potentially lethal, too: Studies have linked visceral fat to a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. 

What to do about it? A new report published in the journal Obesity suggests that aerobic exercise isn’t enough; you’ve got to lift weights, too. Rania Mekary, a researcher at Harvard School of Public Health, found in a large, long-term study that men who did 20 minutes of weight training a day gained less abdominal fat than men who increased their aerobic activity. More on Mekary’s research, according to the release:

Mekary and colleagues studied the physical activity, waist circumference (in centimeters (cm)), and body weight of 10,500 healthy U.S. men aged 40 and over participating in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study between 1996 and 2008. Their analysis included a comparison of changes in participants’ activity levels over the 12-year period to see which activities had the most effect on the men’s waistlines. Those who increased the amount of time spent in weight training by 20 minutes a day had less gain in their waistline (-0.67 cm) compared with men who similarly increased the amount of time they spent on moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise (-0.33 cm), and yard work or stair climbing (-0.16 cm). 

Previous research on women, ages 24 to 44, produced similar results. Though, did you catch the part about weight training resulting in less gain to their waistlines? In other words, a pudgy waist is probably coming for you with middle age, but the evidence shows weight training can at least make your future waist less pudgy than it might’ve been.

You Should Probably Be Lifting Weights