Obesity: A Hot Topic

Hrubeniuk speaking at the Atlantic Provinces and Exercise Scientists and Sociocultarists Conference - Image Submitted

Hrubeniuk speaking at the Atlantic Provinces and Exercise Scientists and Sociocultarists Conference - Image Submitted

You’ve likely heard that we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic, but what exactly does that mean? Obesity is a term used to describe excess body fat accumulation to the point in which it is accompanied by adverse health effects. To be classified as obese, one must have a body mass index (BMI) of above 30, which takes into consideration both a person’s height and weight. The BMI index has been strongly associated with a variety of major health risks such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, asthma, and arthritis, among other complications. These risks aren’t something to scoff at, Statistics Canada estimates that one in four adult Canadians (approximately 6.3 million Canadians) were classified as obese in 2012, an increase of 17.5% from 2003. With rapidly increasing rates of obesity, focus is starting to shift towards addressing this issue.

Winnipeg native, Travis Hrubeniuk, earned his Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from the University of Manitoba. Following his Bachelor’s degree, Hrubeniuk began to pursue a Master’s of Science in Kinesiology from the same institution in which he obtained his Bachelor’s degree. Hrubeniuk’s Master’s degree was completed at the Pan Am Clinic Foundation, where he looked at the effects of maximal exercise on oxygen saturation in the frontal lobe of the brain. During his time at the University of Manitoba, Hrubeniuk was introduced to Dr. Danielle Bouchard and got involved in summer research.

It was with [Dr. Bouchard] that I learned a lot of the basics surrounding health research, and found my passion investigating aspects of population health. - Travis Hrubeniuk

Hrubeniuk is currently studying at the University of New Brunswick as a PhD candidate.  

While working with Dr. Bouchard, Hrubeniuk has looked at the health benefits of resistance-based training programs compared against traditional exercise programs in obese individuals. Previous research has shown clear benefits to resistance training, including improved functional independence, cognitive abilities, assistance and also prevention of type 2 diabetes via decreasing body fat, and improvements in many more health markers. However, resistance-based training has traditionally been used as a method of increasing muscle mass rather than as a weight loss tool.

CELL Lab staff members - Image Submitted

CELL Lab staff members - Image Submitted

Currently in Canada, the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines (CPAG) recommends 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week for durations of 10 minutes or more, as well as resistance training at least twice per week in order to achieve health benefits for adults. Despite these guidelines being in place, Statistics Canada estimates that only one in five adult Canadians are meeting these guidelines. Hrubeniuk and Dr. Bouchard found this to be quite concerning and sought to find another option for people to achieve their physical activity.

One goal of this study was to identify if resistance-based training could provide similar benefits to aerobic training. By identifying the benefits, this type of program could be used to bypass potential barriers currently preventing people from meeting the CPAG. Time, cold weather, lack of enjoyment, and pain are among some of the reasons aerobic exercise is not feasible for obese individuals. The resistance training program consisted of a structured circuit training style, which aimed at reducing the amount of rest time and increasing the number of exercises done in that time period to see if the increase in heart rate translated to health benefits, as well as enjoyment.

While the sample size was relatively small and the follow-up period was short, the results seem promising. The aerobic and resistance training groups had no difference in blood pressure and cholesterol levels, with the only measurement separating the groups being VO2max. Along with similar benefits in resistance training compared to aerobic training, it was noted that men especially enjoyed the resistance training. Hrubeniuk hopes that this will be the foundation for future research in order to make physical activity and weight loss more enjoyable and accessible to the population, especially those who struggle with obesity.



1. Government of Canada SC. Adjusting the scales: Obesity in the Canadian population after correcting for respondent bias. https://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-624-x/2014001/article/11922-eng.htm. Published May 28, 2014. Accessed March 17, 2018.

2. Government of Canada SC. Directly measured physical activity of adults, 2012 and 2013. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-625-x/2015001/article/14135-eng.htm. Published February 18, 2015. Accessed March 17, 2018.

3. Mokdad AH, Ford ES, Bowman BA, et al. Prevalence of Obesity, Diabetes, and Obesity-Related Health Risk Factors, 2001. JAMA. 2003;289(1):76-79. doi:10.1001/jama.289.1.76

4. Westcott WL. Resistance Training is Medicine: Effects of Strength Training on Health. Current Sports Medicine Reports. 2012;11(4):209. doi:10.1249/JSR.0b013e31825dabb8

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