Doctors frequently encourage patients to exercise more and eat less in order to keep their waist trim.
Now, researchers in China have identified the five types of exercise that are most effective at helping people who are predisposed to obesity stave off that weight gain.
According to the study, which was published in the journal PLOS Genetics, regular jogging is the best type of exercise for managing obesity and avoiding weight gain.
Four other exercises also ranked at the top. These include mountain climbing, walking (including power walking), certain types of dance, and long yoga practices.
The researchers reached these conclusions after asking 18,424 Han Chinese adults, ages 30 to 70, to record their exercise routines. They then compared their exercise logs to the individuals’ genetics.
While it’s possible that these findings won’t translate across other racial and ethnic groups, the study spotlights how staying active can help stave off obesity.
The Centers for Disease Control and PreventionTrusted Source reports that almost 40 percent of American adults are obese, and a total of 72 percent are overweight or obese. This type of research may go a long way in encouraging movement and activity that can be rewarding.
What the study found
Unlike previous exercise-related weight-loss studies, these researchers used five different measures for obesity, including body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage, and waist-to-hip-ratio to determine which exercises are the most effective at managing and preventing weight gain. The majority of earlier research looked solely at BMI, which is a measure for obesity that’s falling out of favor with many healthcare providers.
The four exercises that proved to be the least effective for weight loss? Cycling, stretching, swimming, and Dance Dance Revolution, the cult classic video game that encourages people to move to choreographed steps.
Previous researchTrusted Source has shown that frequent physical activity can have beneficial effects on weight, including risks for weight-related conditions like cardiovascular disease, for people of all body sizes. What’s more, the research suggests inactivity, even for people within normal weight ranges, can have negative health consequences.
What’s so great about jogging?
“Jogging keeps the heart rate in a low-end heart rate zone, which is considered the ‘fat burning’ zone,” said Bianca Beldini, a doctor of physical therapy and USA Triathlon Certified Level 1 coach. “This means that the body uses fat for its primary fuel source to maintain the heart rate at this zone.”
Beldini continued, “As one increases their rate of exertion, increases resistance or speed, they move into higher heart rate zones, which utilize glycogen or sugar for fuel. I often tell patients that low zone work is like ‘burning the midnight oil,’ so one can go long periods of time at a low intensity because they use their fat stores for energy.”
A person with obesity “has a much higher fat to muscle ratio, therefore making it easier to utilize this for fuel,” Beldini explained.
The other exercises highlighted by the researchers “require large amounts of effort to maintain a paced workout. The athleticism needed is far greater than the alternatives,” said Eric P. Fleishman, a personal trainer and host of “Celebrity Sweat” on Amazon Prime.
Beldini added, “What is good about these other exercises is the higher caloric expenditure, which means that they will burn more calories to do them because they are harder to perform. The more calories burned, the faster the weight comes off.”
The exercises that weren’t found to be as effective seem to have something in common, too, Fleishman says: They don’t require you to use your body mass for exercise. That, Beldini says, may explain the lack of results.
In cycling, “The body is a bit unweighted because you are sitting, in comparison to jogging, and it doesn’t require as much total body energy as jogging does,” she said. “Thus not putting the same amount of strain on the cardiovascular and biomechanical system.”
She added, “Stretching is a passive activity which is great for myofascial pliability but does not raise the heart rate enough to improve fat metabolism.”
Dance Dance Revolution “is a great activity to fluctuate between low and high heart rate zones so they are quite possibly getting an aerobic and anaerobic conditioning. However, this fluctuation isn’t typically sustainable for longer periods of time.”
How to become a jogger
For the novice jogger or people who are unsure how or where to begin, the key is to start slow, says Robert Herbst, a personal trainer, weight loss and wellness expert, and powerlifter.
“If people want to start jogging, they should build up to it gradually, starting with walking,” he said. “They should also start doing some resistance training to build their leg muscles.”
Beldini says a combination of jogging and walking, at a pace that’s comfortable for you, may help you ease into it. “The jog/walk strategy can be tailored to the person depending on their discomfort, as well as using a heart rate monitor to ensure that the heart rate is not spiking during the jog portion,” she said.
Intervals she suggests include a 3-minute jog followed by a 30-second walk, a 4-minute jog followed by 45 seconds of walking, or a 5-minute jog with 1 minute of walking.
“Any combination is fine as long as the person performing it is staying within their respective low heart rate zones,” Beldini said.
And if jogging seems a bit too difficult or uninteresting to you? Try something else, says Franklin Antoian, a trainer and founder of iBodyFit.com. “When choosing an exercise to lose weight or fight obesity, be sure to choose something that you actually like to perform. For example, even though jogging is great for weight loss, if you hate to jog, it’s not going to be beneficial for you.”