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Lifting Weights May Jump Start Fat Burning, New Study Finds

People looking to lose weight and trim their waistlines just got another reason to make weightlifting or resistance training part of their exercise routines.

Scientists have long recognized the benefits of increasing muscle mass – get stronger, leaner and sleep better. Muscle is metabolically active and burns calories, so over time larger muscles increase resting metabolism. A new study shows that some of the fat reduction benefits begin immediately after weight training.

During aerobic exercise, muscles release hormones and proteins into the bloodstream that interact with other cells, tissues and organs. This complex crosstalk can trigger a range of biological functions that help maintain overall health and wellness.

In recent preclinical study, researchers observed that microRNA known as miR-1, which modulates muscle growth, also played a profound role in the regulation of fat storage. Weight training caused muscles to release miR-1, taking the brakes off muscle building. The miR-1 migrates to fat cells where it prompts the rapid breakdown of fat into fatty acids that other cells can use for fuel. As a result, fat stores were depleted.

The study was published in The FASEB Journal, a publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, in May 2021. The news also generated coverage in The New York Times.

A follow-up study in humans showed that intense weight training led to a depletion of miR-1 in muscles and a surge of the genetic material in the bloodstream. The research didn’t show how often or how intense weight training programs should be to maximize weight loss. However, the study underscores the importance of weight training to metabolic health.


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