Is Weightlifting Better at Reducing Heart Fat than Aerobic Exercise?

A new study suggests that obese people who engage in resistance training are more likely to see reductions in a type of heart fat that has been linked to cardiovascular disease (Christensen et al., 2019).

In this small study, of 50 individuals, Christensen and colleagues concluded that a certain type of heart fat known as pericardial adipose tissue was reduced in patients who did weightlifting, although not in those who worked on increasing their endurance with aerobic exercise.

However, both forms of exercise resulted in reductions of a second type of heart fat known as epicardial adipose tissue, which has also been linked to heart disease.

Although this study does not explain why weight training has a different effect from endurance training, other studies suggest that resistance training is a stronger stimulus for increased muscle mass and increased basal metabolism compared to endurance training. Consequently, the researchers speculate that those engaged in resistance training burn more calories during the day (including during inactive periods) compared to those engaged in endurance training.

Findings from the study include:

  • Endurance and resistance training significantly reduced epicardial adipose tissue mass by 32% and 24% respectively.
  • While resistance training reduced pericardial adipose tissue mass by 32%, there was no effect of endurance training on pericardial adipose tissue.

Reference

Christensen, R.H., Wedell-Neergaard, A-S., Lehrskov, L.L. et al. (2019) Effect of Aerobic and Resistance Exercise on Cardiac Adipose Tissue. JAMA Cardiology. Published online July 3, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamacardio.2019.2074.

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