Strength training is a must-do for obese teenagers and even outperforms cardio when it comes to health benefits.
That’s according to Lincoln University Sport and Recreation Associate Professor Mike Hamlin, who has evaluated existing research on how exercise affects adolescents with weight issues.
He found that obese people who strength train regularly often have similar cardiovascular health to fit individuals of a healthy weight.
"This has significant implications for young people," he says.
“Children and teenagers should be exercising for at least an hour a day, according to the World Health Organisation. But this can be a problem for obese kids, who are disadvantaged by the effort and pain associated with moving a large mass.
“That’s where strength training is helpful, because it doesn’t place as much stress on the joints as intense aerobic exercise.”
Associate Professor Hamlin says there is constant debate about the advantages of nutrition and exercise, with previous reports indicating that physical activity has little effect on weight.
“Our study clearly suggests otherwise,” he says. “Exercise plus nutrition leads to a moderate improvement in body composition.
“But while exercise alone leads to some improvement, the effects of nutrition alone are inconclusive.”
The study found that the best programme for improving body composition involves high-repetition strength training and low-intensity aerobic exercise.
“But for long-term, sustainable change, we need to consider the environmental, social and economic factors of affected populations.”
Associate Professor Hamlin says the findings have implications for primary healthcare providers and are important due to the global rise in obesity amongst young people.
“It would be good to see exercise prescription become a formal part of medical school education.
“Studies suggest that New Zealand primary healthcare practitioners are often uncomfortable prescribing exercise.”
He says a solution could involve making exercise prescription and behavioural medicine a part of medical education programmes, or creating an integrated system for recommending exercise programmes to patients.
Green Prescription, a programme funded by the Ministry of Health to support active living, does not cater to adolescents as it is limited to adults aged 18 or over.
PHOTO: Associate Professor Mike Hamlin.