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Muscle up: Study reveals new strategy to prevent obesity

A new study of 1.7 million adults has found that combining muscle-strengthening training and aerobic exercise to your weekly exercise regime can reduce your odds of obesity by half.

Adding push-ups, crunches or using weight machines in your weekly exercise regime could decrease your likelihood of obesity by half, the largest study of its kind has revealed.

Using data on 1.7 million adults, USQ research found that doing muscle-strengthening activities twice a week was just as effective for obesity reduction as the current recommended amount of aerobic exercise.

In fact, the research showed that combining the two forms of exercise halved the odds of obesity. The findings were published yesterday (November 11) in the journal Obesity.

Lead author, Dr Jason Bennie who is a Senior Research Fellow at USQ’s Physically Active Lifestyles Research Group, said the study provided the strongest evidence to date of the best amount of physical activity required to combat or prevent obesity.

“It is estimated that almost 40 per cent of Australian adults are obese, and this condition can lead to increased risk of health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and depression,” Dr Bennie said.

“Until now most population-level evidence on physical activity for reducing the risk of, or preventing obesity is based on aerobic exercise, such as walking, cycling and jogging, but few studies have previously examined the associations between combining aerobic exercise and muscle-strengthening activities with obesity.

“From the data we analysed, it’s great news for people who find it hard to get out and exercise, but can potentially do some strength training at home.

“The findings will greatly extend our understanding of the complex relationship between physical activity and obesity, and potentially lead to better health outcomes.”

Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity each week. The Guidelines also recommend doing muscle-strengthening activities at least two days per week.

Dr Bennie hoped the results from the study would be good motivation for people to move more.

“Physical activity doesn’t need to be complicated or time-consuming,” he said.

“Doing any physical activity is better than none and making some changes to your daily routine can make a big difference like body weight exercises such as squats, sit-ups, or push-ups at home; or join a gym to do weights.”

The study, ‘Muscle-strengthening, aerobic exercise and obesity: a pooled analysis of 1.7 million U.S. adults’ is available here.

Man in gym
USQ researcher Dr Jason Bennie.