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March 22, 2017

The Role of Resistance Training in the Management of Obesity

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The role of exercise has traditionally been felt to play only a minor role in the management of obesity, despite it being recognized as a key player in the role of weight maintenance.1 Exercise is universally recognized as a healthful activity given the well-known reduction in risk factors for various metabolic diseases. Much of the confusion surrounding this topic revolves around the concept of exercise being the “calories out” part of the weight loss equation. This is over-simplified, and here I will try to convey a different approach. Together with a proper diet, exercise can play a significant role in the management of obesity. I am going to focus specifically on the role of strength or resistance training in weight management.

In a 2014 article, the investigators looked at resting metabolic rate (RMR) after nine months of resistance training.2 They noted an average 5% increase in RMR after nine months. This is far more significant than calories burned during the activity, as RMR represents roughly 70% of daily calorie expenditures. We are all aware of the negative health implications of sarcopenia with aging. Reduced risk of falls, improved bone density, improved glycemic control, and marked improvement in quality of life are all reasons even the elderly should commit to resistance training. Another study examined strength training for women and incidence of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (subset of the Women’s Health Initiative).3 The authors noted a 30% reduction in the risk of diabetes and a 17% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease. So resistance training is not a men-only activity. Women should be encouraged to include resistance training in any exercise program. This can dispel the notion that women will “bulk up” with weight training. Together with a proper diet, resistance training can play a key role in the management of obesity.

1The Role of Exercise and Physical Activity in Weight Loss and Maintenance: Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2014; 56(4) 441-447 2Effect of Resistance Training on Resting Metabolic Rate and its Estimation by a Dual-Energy X-Ray absorbtiometry Metabolic Map: European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2015) 69, 831-836 3Strength Training and the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease: Sci.Sports Exerc., Vol. 49, No.1, p 40-49 (2017).