Weightlifting better at reducing heart fat than aerobic exercise

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Overweight people who engaged in resistance training were more likely to see reductions in a type of heart fat that has been linked to cardiovascular disease, a new study finds.

In the small study, researchers determined that a certain type of heart fat, pericardial adipose tissue, was reduced in patients who did weight lifting, but not in those who worked on increasing their endurance with aerobic exercise, according to a report published in JAMA Cardiology. Both forms of exercise resulted in the reduction of a second type of heart fat, epicardial adipose tissue, which has also been linked with heart disease.

“We were surprised by this finding,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Regitse Hojgaard Christensen, a researcher at the Center of Inflammation and Metabolism and the Center for Physical Activity Research at the Copenhagen University Hospital.

While the study doesn’t explain why weight training would have a different effect from endurance training, “we know from other studies that resistance training is a stronger stimulus for increased muscle mass and increased basal metabolism compared to endurance training and we therefore speculate that participants doing resistance training burn more calories during the day – also in inactive periods-compared to those engaged in endurance training,” Christensen said in an email.

To explore the impact of different types of exercise on heart fat, Christensen and her colleagues recruited 32 adults who were obese and sedentary but did not yet have heart disease, diabetes, or atrial fibrillation.

The participants were randomly assigned to a three-month program of aerobic exercise, weight training or no change in activity (the control group). Each person had an MRI scan of the heart done at the beginning of the study and at the end.

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