Cardiovascular exercise on machines such as treadmills, cross trainers and bikes, burns more calories than lifting weights, so is it just a waste of gym time to add strength training to your workout?
The simple answer is no. Working your muscles as well as your heart and lungs can improve your health and help you drop a clothes size faster.
While cardiovascular exercise is a great way of burning calories, adding strength training to your workouts will earn you extra calories every day. You’ll even be burning extra calories while you’re sleeping or sitting on the couch watching TV.
Aerobic exercise may burn a few hundred extra calories for dinner, but for every additional pound of muscle you gain, your body burns around 50 extra calories every day of the week.
Research has shown that regular resistance training can increase your Basal Metabolic Rate by up to 15%. So for someone burning 2000 calories per day, that’s a potential 300 extra calories burned every single day.
Do not be disheartened if initially you seem to be staying at the same weight or gaining slightly.
Muscle weighs more per square inch than fat, so whilst your weight might not be dropping very quickly, your clothes are feeling baggier and you are seeing a healthier, slimmer and better toned you in the mirror. That’s far more important than anything those nasty scales have to say, any time.
Weight training is just as suitable for women as it is for men. Many women are wary of taking it up for fear that increased muscle means increased masculinity, this is not the case.
Testosterone is a very important factor in the development of muscle shape, so as women have very low levels of this hormone their muscles develop differently, meaning a little resistance training will not lead to a bulky, butch physique.
Strong muscles, tendons and ligaments are much more capable of withstanding stress, and the improved flexibility gained by strength training also reduces the likelihood of pulled muscles and back pain.
Weight training is an excellent way of combating several symptoms we all face as we get a little older.
Resistance exercise can reduce bone deterioration and build bone mass, preventing osteoporosis.
Working your muscles can also inhibit the affects of sarcopenia, the age related loss of muscle mass, strength and function. After the age of thirty there is a loss of 3-5% of muscle mass per decade, making day to day tasks gradually harder to perform and slowing down metabolism – increasing the risk of weight gain.
Research has shown that weight (or resistance) training can greatly reduce a number of health risks.
It has been proven to have a positive affect on insulin resistance, resting metabolism, blood pressure, body fat and gastrointestinal transit time, factors that are linked to illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
I’m not talking about lifting 100 kilos above your head or chest pressing the weight of a bus. Start slowly and work your way up. Even using bottles of water as makeshift dumbbells or using resistant tubing is a good start.
Over the course of your sessions, use exercises that work all the muscle groups and do 8-12 repetitions. Be sure to use a suitable weight so that the last rep really feels like hard work. Don’t overdo it and make sure that you leave a day or two to recover in between sessions. Muscles grow while resting, so pushing yourself as hard as you can seven days a week won’t do you any favours.