When It Comes to Getting in Shape, Showing Up Is Half the Battle

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If you’re unhappy with the number on the scale, you might be wondering what type of exercise is best for rapid weight loss—strength training, endurance exercise, or a combination of both? Opinions have traditionally varied widely on this issue, but a study by a team of Spanish researchers working as part of the Nutrition and Physical Activity Programs for Obesity Treatment project suggests that the type of exercise you do might not be as important as we previously thought. Their findings are reported in an article published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

The Spanish study attempted to measure whether the type of exercise—endurance training, strength training, strength plus endurance training, or simply following government recommendations for weekly activity goals—made a significant difference on body weight and body composition when combined with a balanced diet. Researchers evaluated 96 obese adults (48 men and 48 women) ranging in age from 18 to 50 as they completed a 22-week supervised weight loss program.

Participants were randomly assigned to either endurance exercise alone (running, elliptical, or cycling); strength exercise alone (shoulder press, squats, barbell row, biceps curl, lateral split, front split, bench press, and French press); or a combination of strength and endurance exercises (cycling, treadmill or elliptical plus squats, rowing machine, bench press, and front split). Regardless of what workout routine they were assigned, all participants in the study performed their exercise programs three times a week for the same length of time and at the same intensity. Participants following the physical activity guidelines were told to get 30–60 minutes of exercise on most, if not all, days of the week and to make lifestyle changes such as taking the steps instead of the elevator to increase daily activity.

At the end of the study, researchers were surprised to see similar outcomes across the board regardless of what type of exercise each participant performed. Results were measured in terms of significant reductions in body weight, body mass index, waist circumference, total fat mass, and an increase in lean mass.

What does this mean for you? Instead of trying to pick an exercise program that promises quick results, focus on choosing an activity you genuinely enjoy. When working out seems like less of a chore, you’ll be much more likely to see the long-term results you crave.

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