Scientific review published in Advances in Nutrition finds a combination of the two is most effective for shedding abdominal fat

If you’re looking to shed abdominal fat, should you start jogging or start lifting weights or should you do both?  That is the question addressed by “The Effect of Aerobic and Resistance Training and Combined Exercise Modalities on Subcutaneous Abdominal Fat: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials.”  Specifically, the authors of this scientific review, published in Advances in Nutrition, the international review journal of the American Society for Nutrition, looked at the independent effects of aerobic training and resistance training as well as the effect of the combination of the two forms of exercise on subcutaneous abdominal fat in adults.

Subcutaneous abdominal fat, which is found just below the skin, is typically the largest fat deposit in the human body.  Research has shown that obesity, characterized by high amounts of subcutaneous abdominal fat, leads to increased levels of low-grade inflammation.  This low-grade inflammation, in turn, has been linked to the development of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers.  On the other hand, the authors pointed out that “it is now well known that a minimal loss of 5–10% of the initial body weight (especially abdominal fat) is effective in improving risk profiles of diseases related to obesity.”  Finding the most effective way to lose abdominal fat is therefore critical for health maintenance.

In order to conduct their research, the authors performed a comprehensive search of the scientific literature.  Their search led them to 59 individual studies that met their criteria.  These 59 studies represented 3,552 individuals who had enrolled in randomized trials in which they were asked to perform aerobic exercise, resistance exercise, or a combination of the two.

The results of this review indicate that aerobic training and resistance training, as well as a combination of the two, are all effective in lowering subcutaneous abdominal fat compared with no intervention at all.  In studies where aerobic training and resistance training were directly compared, no statistically significant differences were observed.  For best results, however, the authors noted, “combining both aerobics training and resistance training resulted in lowering of subcutaneous abdominal fat more than aerobics training or resistance training alone.”

The authors did acknowledge certain limitations of their study.  For example, they noted that significant differences among study results could be due to differences in exercise prescription, including intensity, frequency, session duration, and intervention duration.  Moreover, activities performed by the participants outside of what was required for the study may also have affected the results.  Nonetheless, the authors believe the evidence culled from their systematic review is strong enough to conclude that “combined exercise training should be considered instead of aerobics training or resistance training alone to produce greater reductions in subcutaneous abdominal fat.”

Reference Habib Yarizadeh, Reza Eftekhar, Javad Anjom-Shoae, John R Speakman, Kurosh Djafarian, The Effect of Aerobic and Resistance Training and Combined Exercise Modalities on Subcutaneous Abdominal Fat: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials, Advances in Nutrition, nmaa090,

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