We hear this question asked daily: If you’re looking to tone up, should you hit the treadmill, head to the weight room or both? Well, a new clinical study from a team of Spanish researchers aims to answer that very dilemma—and based off their findings, all of your options are just as good.
The research, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, is part of the CDC’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Programs for Obesity Treatment project. For this particular study, scientists followed 96 obese male and female patients ages 18 to 50 throughout a 22-week weight-loss program. All subjects were given the same foundation to build from: they were instructed to eat a hypo-caloric diet (that means you eat less calories than you burn). Specifically they were asked to consume 30 percent less calories than they burned each day.
From there, each participant was assigned to one of three exercise regimens: endurance-only (either running, elliptical or cycling), strength training-only (shoulder press, squats, barbell row, biceps curl, lateral split, front split, bench press and French press) or a combination of both training protocols (a mix of running, elliptical and cycling as well as squats, the rowing machine, bench presses and front splits).
Everyone was asked to exercise three times a week, and over the course of 22-week program, the sessions would get longer and harder for all groups equally.
There was also a fourth group that followed the American College of Sports Medicine recommendations for weekly physical activity, logging roughly 30 to 60 minutes of exercise most days.
The results? All of the four groups in the study saw significant drops in body weight, BMI, waist circumference and total fat, as well as a solid bump in lean muscle mass.
“The present study shows that, when combined with a hypo-caloric diet, the adherence to physical activity recommendations is just as effective as exercise training programs in the improvement of body weight and body composition in obese subjects,” the researchers write in the paper, essentially proving that all activity is good activity.
But whether the same findings would ring true in non-obese patients wasn’t looked at in this study. And while we at SELF believe the best fitness programs are ones that include every type of training—cardiovascular, strength, flexibility agility and recovery—this research highlights that fact that all types of workouts do work, when you do them.