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MAMILs - want to look better in Lycra? Start pumping iron!

Researchers at Harvard say mix of weight training and aerobic exercise best for avoiding middle-age spread

Middle-aged men wanting to look better in Lycra should start lifting weights, according to a study from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).

While researchers found that weight training was better for men trying to keep their waistline in check than cycling or running, they say that a combination of lifting weights and aerobic exercise is the optimal way to avoid putting on the pounds.

In the study, published in the journal Obesity, researchers found that men who spent 20 minutes a day weight training put on less abdominal fat as they aged than those who undertook the same time engaging in aerobic exercise.

While men who undertook aerobic exercise saw a lower increase in overall weight than those who pump iron, the latter put on less weight around the stomach – and that, say researchers, is a sign that the latter are ageing in a healthier way.

Lead author Dr Rania Mekary of HSPH, quoted on, said: “Because ageing is associated with sarcopenia, the loss of skeletal muscle mass, relying on body weight alone is insufficient for the study of healthy ageing.

“Measuring waist circumference is a better indicator of healthy body composition among older adults.

“Engaging in resistance training or, ideally, combining it with aerobic exercise could help older adults lessen abdominal fat while increasing or preserving muscle mass,” she added.

The study, conducted over 12 years, assessed the levels of physical activity, waist circumference and weight of 10,500 men aged 40 or above, spanning a broad spectrum of body mass index.

The biggest gains in men’s waistlines, unsurprisingly, came from those with more sedentary lifestyles such as spending time sitting watching TV.

Senior author Frank Hu from HSPH said: “This study underscores the importance of weight training in reducing abdominal obesity, especially among the elderly.

“To maintain a healthy weight and waistline, it is critical to incorporate weight training with aerobic exercise,” he added.

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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