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The Best Exercise for Obese Girls is…..

Posted 03/28/2014 | By HealthCorps

Experts have unique perspective on aerobic exercise and resistance training.  Most agree that a blending of both disciplines creates a balanced workout program, addressing calorie burn, which most of us need, and strengthening our muscles and bones, crucial for health and well-being.  In some cases, it may be necessary to emphasize one mode of exercise over another, especially if time issues or weight issues are a consideration.

A recent study looked at which modality is more beneficial to obese teen girls, and the winner……aerobic exercise.  The study recruited 44 obese girls, ages 12-18.  They were grouped into three groups – CE (cardio exercise), RE (resistance exercise) and NE (no exercise).  Baseline measurements include: weight, waist, glucose level, insulin sensitivity, body fat, cardio-respiratory fitness, and some other important assessments.  The CE and RE groups exercised three times a week for 60 minutes.  The CE group did wear heart rate monitors that helped guide them to target a certain level of effort.

The RE group followed a typical “one to two sets, 12-15 reps” formula for a variety of upper and lower body exercises with weights or on weight machines.  They also did pushups and sit ups.  All the girls followed a “weight maintenance diet” which meant that the number of calories they consumed was adequate to keep them at the same weight and not to specifically lose weight.

At the end of the study none of the groups lost any weight.  BUT, the CE group did lose body fat, specifically visceral fat (which is associated with serious health consequences).   They also experienced improvements in their insulin sensitivity.

So the take-away message is that if you are going to encourage a girl who is struggling with her weight to exercise, tell her to focus on aerobic (cardiovascular) exercise.  Since we have to pick our battles with teens, it’s important to find “best solutions” that yield positive health benefits with minimal time investment.

(Source: American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism, (2013;doi:10.1152/ajpendo.00285.2013)

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