Sick of running? Lifting weights has significant benefits for burning fat

It's true! Spending time doing resistance training can teach your body to burn fat, according to research

Woman doing squats in the gym
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Bored of running long distances for little results? Find the intensity of HIIT exercises too demanding, making it difficult to motivate yourself? Perhaps you don't like the happy-go-lucky nature of your local spin class instructor? Fortunately, there's an alternative exercise for weight loss you might not have tried yet: going heavy in the weights room. 

In fact, you don't even need the gym: our guides to the best adjustable dumbbells and best resistance bands can provide you with all the kit you need home. 

We've long known that lifting weights affects an individual's body composition, which is the ratio of fat to bone to muscle in a person's body. Generally speaking, more muscle and less fat is beneficial to the body, so the act of building muscle is essential for anyone looking to improve their fitness. Building muscle is also great for older adults, as it slows down, and in some cases reverses, the process of muscular atrophy that occurs naturally as we age. 

However, thanks to recent research, we now believe building muscle with resistance training changes our body at the metabolic level, encouraging it to burn fat for us. Researchers from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and College of Health Sciences examined cells in humans and mice, finding that when they operate under load, they release signals which are transported to fat cells to enter a "fat-burning mode", making your body more susceptible to fat loss. 

deadlift in gym

(Image credit: Victor Freitas/Unsplash)

It was often thought resistance training raises our metabolism by increasing our body's oxygen consumption, but this communication between cells, and the idea resistance training encourages fat to burn more easily, is brand new. It has big implications for how we exercise.

John McCarthy, PHD and study author, said: "To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of how weight training initiates metabolic adaptations in fat tissue, which is crucial for determining whole-body metabolic outcomes."

How to start resistance training

You don't necessarily need weights to get started: you can do a lot with just your body weight. if you've never tried push-ups before, or haven't in many years, there are planty of variations you can perform to make the exercise easier. The video below, from Hampton at Hybrid Calisthenics, makes this essential exercise accessible to everyone with easier variations such as wall push-ups. 

Regressions and variations exist for all sorts of resistance training exercises. Finding a deadlift or squat too difficult? Start off with just the bar until your muscles get used to the proper form. If you're finding pull-ups too difficult, opt for the lat pull-down machine, or use resistance bands hooked on your doorframe. Alternatively, you can check out some of our muscle-building guides, for example: how to do a push up

Matt Evans
Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and Channel Editor at Fit&Well. He's previously written for titles like Men's Health and Red Bull, and covers all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. 

Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen kickboxer and runner. His top fitness tip? Stretch.