Myth: Aerobic exercise is better than weight lifting for weight loss

MythMyth

Aerobic is not superior to weight lifting for weight loss.  

Running

Running

You may have heard that weight loss and washboard abdominals are made in the kitchen.  There is no doubt this is true.  Does exercise have a place?  Absolutely.   Does exercise help with weight loss and maintenance?  Absolutely.  Can I lose weight without exercise?  Absolutely.  Does exercise make weight loss easier?  Certainly.  

I have heard this myth for years.  When I was in college, I had a nutrition professor that was an avid runner who frequently made the statement: “Running is the best exercise for weight loss.”  In the Army, nearly every NCO and officer I experienced made the same statement for the first half my career.  The problem is that they are dead wrong.  

The most common form of aerobic exercise in the military is running.  You can run every day and not lose any weight.  The problem is that exercise is only half of the process of weight loss and running is only one-third of the exercise equation for physical fitness.  Just like physical fitness requiring aerobic, strength training, and stretching, successful long-term weight loss requires more than just exercise.  

Aerobic exercise will burn more calories per unit of time than strength training.  This statement is an absolute fact, but it is only half of the equations.  Weight lifting burns calories long after the exercise is done.  It does this in two ways: weight lifting burns calories longer than aerobic training by requiring the building and repairing of muscle and by building more muscle to increase your metabolism.  

Clearly, interval training is the best exercise for weight loss.  It is superior to both weightlifting and aerobic exercise if calorie per unit time is what you want.  The problem is may be superior to have longer sustained calorie burn and a higher metabolism.  I recommend a combination of multiple exercise types.  

The bottom line:  Aerobic exercise is not the best, fastest, nor the only way to lose weight. I would honestly say that the best option is a mixture of aerobic, interval, and strength training along with a healthy diet. 

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About the Author

ChuckH
I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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