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Weight Training Trims More
Tummy Fat in Women

, Reuter's Health

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Elderly women tend to lose more fat from their abdomens than men as a result of resistance training using weights, according to researchers.

However, the lead author told Reuters Health, these results do not suggest that elderly men should abandon resistance training. Although men did not lose any fat from a particular region in their guts, both men and women increased their strength by a similar amount, and both lost the same amount of total fat mass as a result of the exercise.

These findings show "that older men benefit from (resistance training) greatly," said Dr. Gary R. Hunter of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

In addition, previous studies have shown that resistance training can help the elderly, both men and women, improve their ability to take on everyday physical tasks, and can also increase their metabolism and thus their food consumption, which in turn increases their intake of needed vitamins and other nutrients.

"The group that would benefit the most from resistance training is, I think, older adults," Hunter concluded.

During the study, Hunter's team measured the effect of 25 weeks of resistance training for 12 women and 14 men. The study participants, aged 61 to 77 years, completed two sets of 10 repetitions three times per week. Repetitions included activities such as back extensions, leg extensions, bench presses and bent leg sit-ups.

After participants had completed the exercise program, the investigators used CT scans to measure the loss of fat from a particular region of their abdomen. This fat is known medically as intra-abdominal adipose tissue, and higher amounts have been linked to diabetes, heart disease and an increased overall risk of death.

Reporting in the latest issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, Hunter and colleagues note that both men and women improved their strength by an average of 15% and 16%, respectively, and lost slightly less than 2 kilograms--about 4.4 pounds--of total body fat.

But the researchers found that while women lost about 15 cubic centimeters of abdominal fat, men saw a slight increase in belly fat following the resistance training.

This finding was surprising, Hunter said, especially given the fact that men had lost as much overall fat as women from the exercise. However, he noted that it is possible that the men had actually lost some belly fat, but the researchers had not captured that difference during their measurements, which only sample one specific region in the abdomen--right around an imaginary line crossing the bellybutton.

Although losing abdominal fat is important, Hunter urged that older men not be discouraged from resistance training by the findings. Resistance training has been shown in increase the amount of calories the elderly burn when not exercising, which allows them to take in more food, and therefore more nutrients, he explained, noting that older adults with slower metabolisms may have a nutrition-poor diet.

Furthermore, adding aerobic exercise to a resistance-training program might help elderly men lose some of their abdominal fat, Hunter added.

SOURCE: Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 2002;34:1023-1028.

Reference Source 89


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