So, you run? Or maybe you walk, swim, bike, use the elliptical machine, or go to fitness classes every chance you get? That’s awesome! You make exercise a priority in your life. Cardiovascular activity is a great foundation for helping you stay healthy and attaining/maintaining your optimal weight. And, when it’s an activity you enjoy, it can truly feed your soul!
But if you think it’s enough, think again. I’m not talking just in terms of your overall health, but also in terms of weight loss. Yep, strength training, paired with cardio, will get you where you really want to be. If you want to look better, feel better, do more, live longer, and live independently into old age, strength training is where it’s at.
Adults lose between five and seven pounds of muscle every decade after age 20. Strength training helps prevent this muscle loss, and rebuilds what you may have lost. So by the time you’re 60, 70, or 80, still having this muscle can help you maintain your quality of life, keep you active, and ward off disease. In other words, you’ll feel years younger than you are. It improves your balance and coordination, and can reduce your risk of falling by as much as 40 percent, which is huge as you get older.
In my experience, the most typical negative responses to the idea of strength training are:
A. I’m not the “weight-lifting” type. I’ve never lifted weights and I’ve done just fine. Why start now?
B. I don’t want to bulk up. When I lift weights I bulk up. (What were you eating during the time you lifted these weights?)
C. I don’t care about muscles. I just want to be thinner.
Okay, I get it. In fact, I used to be one of these people. The idea of strength training immediately brought to mind visions of mammoth, grunting meat-heads bench pressing a gazillion pounds. Just the idea is enough to send someone new away screaming. The good news: This is not what I’m recommending for you!
The other good news: Ladies, you don’t have enough testosterone in your body to become one of these people, no matter how much you bench! In fact, don’t bench at all if that’s not your thing. Two or three times a week, do some push-ups, chair dips, squats, lunges…whatever suits you. Tailor your routine to your taste. Just make sure you’re working every major muscle group, and give each muscle group at least a day to rest in between workouts.
Here’s another biggie: Adding a simple strength routine a few times a week increases your basal metabolic rate, or the amount of calories your body burns at rest. It can boost your metabolism by as much as 15 percent. The more muscle you have, the easier your body is able to burn the fat off on top of that muscle because you’re burning more calories, all the time. Having an engine composed of more muscle as opposed to more fat requires more calories per day to just live.
Cardio exercise is great for burning calories, but won’t give you the body composition needed to make you a fat-burning machine. Cardio doesn’t do much to build lean muscle at all, and too much cardio can sometimes cause muscle break down. In addition, strength training helps keep the weight off for good, according to studies.
Don’t assume that just because someone is thin, he or she is healthy. Thin people who have bodies composed of less muscle and more fat can be at increased risk for disease. Studies have proven the many wellness benefits of strength training. It can help with arthritis pain, increase bone density, improve glucose control among those with type 2 diabetes (in addition to a balanced diet), and so much more. Besides, wouldn’t you rather be tight, toned and slim, rather than thin and floppy?
It’s win-win, all around. Just 2-3 sets, 8-15 repetitions, 3 times per week, can reap major rewards for your well-being and physique, for the rest of your life. So the question should be, perhaps, Why not start now?