It’s not everything! When you are working on weight loss, cardio exercises such as running, biking, swimming, and rowing, are great for burning calories and if you get your heart rate up to at least 70% of maximum (see previous blog “No More Couch Potatoes”), you are also getting a heart and lung workout, which is good for you in other ways. However, you don’t have to limit yourself to cardio if you’re serious about losing weight.
If you’re new to exercise, over 40, have a health problem, or take regular medication, check with your primary care doctor before starting a fitness program.
Strength training will burn calories and build muscle, which has a number of health benefits. Strength training generally burns fewer calories than a cardio workout, but in the long run you could burn a significant amount. The primary benefit of strength training is that it increases your RMR (resting metabolic rate). We all burn calories just sitting at our desks or driving our cars or any of the other mundane daily tasks that we do, but it’s not much. Studies show that women who participate in a strength training program for 12 weeks increase their RMR by 15% or more. That means that you burn calories not only during your workout, but during the other 23 hours of the day you burn at a higher rate, because muscle requires a lot more energy to maintain even at rest. 15% means you burn an extra 300 calories a day, which translates to over 109,000 calories a year, or over 31 lbs of weight lost! And you could be losing as much or more through cardio workouts and proper diet.
We frequently get this question from patients: What can I do to increase my metabolism? This is it! All exercise, whether cardio or strength training, helps to build muscle, which increases your metabolism.
Additionally, strength training reduces pain and dysfunction of arthritis, reduces risk of osteoporosis, and increases insulin sensitivity. Stronger muscles means better ability to do daily tasks, both on the job and at home. Exercise of all kinds reduces anxiety and depression symptoms.
And bigger muscles makes you look hot! Guys nearly all want bigger muscles, but women are usually resistant to the idea of improving their muscle size. They are afraid to look too muscled, like the women on the cover of body sculpting magazines. I’m sure there are some who see beauty in that, but I agree – a woman whose physique reminds me of Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator is not attractive. But trust me, you won’t even get close to that look without exercise becoming your “job” 4-5 hours a day. If you work out 2-4 times a week, you will improve muscle tone and size to a moderate degree. You will look better, feel better, and you’ll be healthier!
If you’re new to strength training, join a gym and get a personal trainer there to get you started right. If you want to do it alone, there are instructional DVDs for sale on Amazon, or you can look up videos on YouTube. I’m going to remind you to try MyFitnessPal app on your phone; it rocks! It will give you calories burned for your exercises as well as keep up with your food intake (it becomes an easy food diary, which is an important part of a weight loss program). I also suggest you try the WebMD site and subscribe to their weekly slideshows in your email. They have great ideas about healthy eating, exercises, and many related things. Below is the most recent slideshow. Check it out!