As you age you start losing muscle and while many older adults do cardio to keep their muscles strong, it might be a good idea to pick up some weights. A new study by researchers at Wake Forest University suggests combining weight training with a low-calorie diet preserves much needed lean muscle mass that can be lost through aerobic workouts.
The findings, “Effect of Exercise Type During Intentional Weight Loss on Body Composition in Older Adults with Obesity,” appear in the November issue of the journal Obesity.
“A lot of older adults will walk as their exercise of choice,” said Kristen Beavers, assistant professor of health and exercise science at Wake Forest and lead author of the study. “But this research shows that if you’re worried about losing muscle, weight training can be the better option.”
In this 18-month study of 249 adults in their 60s who were overweight or obese, restricting calories plus resistance training in the form of weight-machine workouts resulted in less muscle loss, but significant fat loss, when compared to weight loss plus walking or weight loss alone.
Losing weight is generally recommended for those with obesity, but preserving muscle – while losing fat – is particularly important for older adults in order to maximize functional benefit, Beavers said.
“Surprisingly, we found that cardio workouts may actually cause older adults with obesity to lose more lean mass than dieting alone.”