From the Washington Post:

It seems like common sense that combining aerobic exercise with resistance training would be the best program to help whittle your belly and improve your health.

But new research comes to the surprising conclusion that, at least for one subset of people, aerobics alone is best not only at promoting overall weight loss but also whittling away the visceral belly fat that’s linked to so many negative health conditions.

The study, published Aug. 16 in the American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism, measured the effects on overall weight, liver fat and visceral fat and other factors of exercise regimens featuring aerobic exercise, resistance training and a combination of the two. Their subjects were 196 sedentary people ages 18 to 70 who were overweight or obese.

Visceral fat (the kind that accumulates around the internal organs in the abdomen), liver fat and overweight/obesity are known to contribute to such chronic health conditions as type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome and also to overall mortality.

All three groups exercised about the same amount of time per week. But the aerobics-only group saw greater reductions in visceral fat, liver fat and overall body mass than either of the other groups. Adding resistance training to aerobic exercise conferred no substantial benefits, and resistance training alone resulted in little notable change except an overall increase in body mass, which resulted from an increase in lean tissue (muscle); abdominal fat did decrease a bit among this group.

The authors note that differences in results might be attributable in part to the simple fact that aerobic exercise burns more calories than resistance training does, hour for hour. The authors suggest additional research in which the exercise programs are matched for the number of calories expended, not the time spent exercising.

Still, the study establishes that, particularly for people not inclined to exercise in the first place or who are unable to exercise for long periods of time, aerobic activity may be the most efficient way to lose weight and get healthier.

What does this mean for our bodies? And what is the point of strength training if it’s not going to be the most efficient way of achieving what so many people desire?

Strength training is for function. It’s for those of us who, like me, didn’t even have enough muscle to lift themselves out of the car without having to brace herself. It’s for those of us, who – like my elders – are continuously breaking their bones because they have no muscle to help them brace or catch themselves when they fall. And, quite frankly, it’s because I want a smaller size with curves, and burning fat left me with a lot of “holes to fill.” Strength training is what gives me a figure after all that cardio does away with the fat I sought to get rid of. It’s what gave me the booty, hips and thighs I wanted. It’s what’s giving me the ability to gain precision at my sport of choice.

I think the most important part of this is what I bolded – if fat loss is your goal and you’ve only got one hour to devote to your fitness goal then yes, an hour of cardio would be the most efficient use of your time. However, if your goal is a more well-rounded approach to fitness, it should be noted that getting in both types of activity is the best route; it also should be noted that choosing to devote time to both activities (one being much more labor-intensive and, therefore, calorie-burning than the other) instead of just cardio, means that you’ll burn less calories during that hour.

And, really, as a second point, it should also be noted that building muscle means that your body will require more calories throughout each day. In other words, the more muscle you have, the more you can eat without gaining weight.

Is the two-handed approach of cardio and strength the better answer? Of course I’m going to say yes, buuuut that was to be expected!