RE is typically performed for the purpose of increasing strength or muscle mass or both (20). In addition to improvements in strength and muscle mass, RE also leads to favorable changes in the areas of body composition, muscular endurance, bone density, cardiac risk factors, psychosocial well-being, and metabolism (4,7,20,35–37,39). In their extensive review article, Strasser and Schobersberger concluded that RE results in favorable changes in body composition (decreased fat mass and increased lean body mass [LBM]), can help “maintain reduced fat mass in obese patients after exercise training or energy intake restriction,” and is effective in reducing abdominal obesity (35). Common modes of RE include the use of barbells/dumbbells, resistive bands/tubing, strength training machines, and various bodyweight exercises. Public health recommendations on PA and health encourage the inclusion of regular strength training activities (7,16,19,21,33).
Despite the significant health and functional benefits that RE can provide, it is not an effective sole strategy for reducing excess bodyweight. Furthermore, the combination of RE and a reduced calorie diet does not provide additional weight loss benefits beyond that seen with diet alone (10). This should by no means discourage the use of RE as part of a weight loss/weight management plan. Although the inclusion of RE might not enhance short-term weight loss, it does result in healthy changes in body composition (decreased fat mass and increased LBM) and may play an important role in successful long-term weight management.
Encouraging reports on the value of RE when combined with a reduced calorie diet have also been reported in the literature (4,11,17). Of significant importance was the finding that during periods of reduced caloric intake, RE could attenuate (11,17) or even prevent (4) the loss of FFM. Subjects in these studies who were on the same low-calorie diets and performing aerobic exercise experienced a significant loss of FFM (4,17). Because the primary goal of most weight loss programs is to reduce unhealthy body fat, those programs that better target the loss of fat while minimizing the loss of healthy and functional lean tissue are preferable.
Although further studies are necessary, there is credible evidence to suggest that RE can play an important role in a comprehensive weight management program. The potential for RE to reduce, or perhaps even prevent the decreases in RMR and FFM that often accompany weight loss programs that are based solely on diet or diet plus aerobic exercise, is intriguing and merits further investigation. Studies using various levels of caloric restriction and incorporating a variety of combined aerobic and RE protocols might yield further insight as to the “optimal” exercise approach to weight loss/weight management.
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