Everyone’s an exercise weight loss expert. Cut through the noise and use our concise guide to make real gains

Cardio exercise is better for weight loss than lifting weights

The truth

One of the oldest myths around, cardio has always been seen as the first port of call for the portly. Cardiovascular exercise, such as running or swimming, do burn kilojoules during the exertion, but muscle is not built during these kinds of exercise. With weight training, you are increasing your muscle mass, meaning your metabolism speeds up, therefore you burn more kilojoules every day during your normal activities.New research suggests that good fats and high-fibre carbs can keep your metabolism from slowing downAnother reason to lift weights? If you do cardio without weight training, you will lose muscle mass as well as fat. Researchers from Ball State University, in the US, put overweight men on a 6 270kJ-a-day diet and divided them into three groups – one that didn’t exercise, another that performed aerobic exercise three days a week, and a third that did aerobic exercise and weight training three days a week.

The results

Each group lost nearly the same amount of weight – about nine kilograms. But the weightlifters shed 2.3kg more fat than those who didn’t pump iron. Why? Because their weight loss was almost pure fat, while the other two groups lost just seven kilograms of lard and one-and-a-half kilograms of lean body mass, aka muscle. The percentages of this weight loss: diet only – 69 percent fat mass; diet plus aerobic exercise – 78 percent fat mass; and diet, aerobic exercise plus weight training – 97 percent fat mass.

The solution

Use both weight training and cardio in your belly-off programme. And in the gym, aim to do compound exercises such as squats, push-ups, lunges and dead lifts to work all the major muscle groups. Start off slowly, and be sure to allow for enough rest time between your gym days.

If you exercise regularly, you can eat what you want

The truth

This, unfortunately, is a sad misconception. No matter what you do during the day, you still need to make sure you aren’t eating too much for the activity you are participating in. Dr John Jakicic, a researcher from the University of Pittsburgh, says: “Without a change in eating behaviour, exercise alone has a minimal impact on weight loss.” Dr Kelly Shaw, from the Department of Health and Human Services of Australia, came to a similar conclusion when she reviewed weight-loss trials and found that modifying your diet has a greater impact on weight loss than just exercise.

The bottom line

Your eating habits play a huge role in losing weight, and exercise will help you to keep the weight off. Combine them for the best results. The solution Aim to eat five or six small meals a day instead of three large ones. Match up your eating habits to the exercise you participate in.

You can spot-reduce fat, meaning you can target certain areas of your body.

The truth

People believe that if you do 500 sit-ups daily, you’ll get a six-pack. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. When you lose weight, it occurs all over your body. Looking to lose the love handles? Even though there are many exercises that target the muscles under your love handles, “building up that area will only push the fat out further and make your middle look even wider,” says Dr David Pearson, a professor of exercise physiology. So avoid exercises like side bends and side crunches. Instead, concentrate on losing overall body fat: as the extra kilos melt away, so will your love handles.

The solution

Do some rowing. You burn up to 50 percent more fat as fuel when you exercise on a rowing machine rather than a stationary bike. Add some weight training and watch what you eat.