An Ottawa-based study says the key to helping obese kids lose weight is through a combination of weight training, aerobics and healthy eating.

The study published today in the Journal of the American Medication Association Pediatrics could set the benchmark in managing a growing crisis among our youth.  CTV Ottawa spoke with one of the participants of the study about her incredible achievements.  At 18 years old, Allison Neilson-Sewell says she weighed 320 pounds. She had tried diets throughout her teen years but always ended up gaining back the weight. A few years ago, she heard about an Ottawa study looking into the benefits of aerobics and resistance training in obese youth and signed on.

"One year after the study,” says Neilson-Sewell, as she lifts free weights in a gym, “I lost 130 pounds, just from walking and running every day and eating whole foods.”

The study, led by researchers out of Ottawa and Calgary, involved 300 overweight teens in the National Capital area.  One group was to do aerobic exercise only such as walking or cycling.  Another was to do resistance training with weights.

   The 3rd group did both, with longer workouts to strenghten both muscles and lungs.  Among the participants in that group, who finished at least 70% of the prescribed exercise sessions, waist circumference decreased “close to seven centimeters in those randomized to combined aerobic plus resistance exercise” the study sites, “versus about four centimeters in those randomized to do just one type of exercise.”  A fourth group followed the same, healthy, caloric intake as the other three groups but did no exercise training.  That group reported “no change in those randomized to diet alone.”

Dr. Glen Kenny is a doctor of Physiology at uOttawa and the co-lead on the study, “We saw reductions in five or six pounds in terms of  fat mass loss,” he says, “so that's great when we talk about the risk factor for cardiovascular and diabetes.”

Childhood and youth obesity is at a crisis level. The majority of those overweight youth grow up to be obese adults, increasing their risk for a number of chronic diseases.

Allison Neilson-Sewell knew the statistics well.  She was in the "weights only" group but was so empowered with the study and the changes in her body, she just kept on going.

“I realized one day I wanted more for my life,” she says, “and I saw more for my life and I decided to put it into action.”

But doctors know getting overweight teens motivated to work out four times a week is a huge challenge.

"A lot of adolescents said “Well I'm getting fatter every year, there’s nothing I can do about it,” says Dr. Ron Sigal, the study’s principal lead from the University of Calgary, “Yes there is something you can do; you can arrest this trend and can continue to do more.”

That's Allison's philosophy too.  She now studying nutrition and hopes other young people can learn from her.   She’s offered her email address ( to those who want to connect with her. 

“The biggest thing for me was believing that I could do it,” she says, “At 320 pounds, it seemed overwhelming but if you do 10 pounds at a time, it's completely achievable.”

The study was led by doctors Sigal and Kenny and funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Alberta-Innovates Health Solutions.