Resistance Exercise: a less painful start for losing weight and fighting obesity for those with low aerobic capacity

Vincent C.W. Chen, PhD

Have you been unable to meet an exercise goal and couldn’t last even a short time? Is there another way to start a fat-burning exercise program without the painful, frustrating feelings?

Well-documented, obesity has become a major problem in the United States. Exercise has been recognized to be an efficient way to lose fat and keep fit. Endurance exercise burns fat to provide the needed energy. Furthermore, the more you exercise, the better your fat-burning capacity. However, endurance exercise requires a single long period of exercise, more than 30 minutes, to reach the aerobic goal. Some people, especially the overweight and obese, have limited aerobic capacity, so they fatigue quickly and cannot exercise to the aerobic goal. The aerobic limitations not only physically reduce exercise ability but often bring frustration and other obstacles

Unlike endurance exercise, resistance exercise (such as weight lifting) consists of short-period exercises that do not require prolonged time. For those who fatigue quickly, resistance exercise is less painful to perform. You may wonder whether resistance exercise burn fat and improve aerobic capacity. A new study conducted in our laboratory at Texas A&M University has shown that PPAR-delta, a protein that promotes lipid use for energy in skeletal muscle, increases following the resistance exercise training. This result indicates that resistance exercise training may encourage your body to burn fat as fuel. Furthermore, other studies have shown that resistance exercise increases oxidative potential, which refers to the ability to use lipid. So, the answer appears to be is yes, resistance exercise training may make you burn fat and improve aerobic capacity.

Even without good aerobic capacity, overweight and obese people can start resistance exercise and see improvement in reaching exercise goals. The increased muscle mass with resistance exercise training may enhance basal metabolic rate, which further induces a higher energy expenditure at rest. These improvements can build confidence and lead to progress with endurance exercise and fat burning. It does not only apply to overweight and obese people but also those with poor aerobic capacity who want to increase fitness; for example, those with sedentary occupations.

1. Chen VCW, Lee CW, Lee TV, Bui S, Fluckey JD, Riechman SE. (2013). Changes in Body Composition with Six Weeks of Resistance Training. FASEB J. 27:lb759,
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3. Tang, Jason E., Joseph W. Hartman, and Stuart M. Phillips. (2006). Increased muscle oxidative potential following resistance training induced fibre hypertrophy in young men. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism 31(5): 495-501.

This article was originally published in the Sydney & J.L. Huffines Institute for Sports Medicine & Human Performance website (2014)

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