Many people today believe that the most effective (and often only) prescription for weight loss is cardiovascular exercise.
“Yep, just hop on the treadmill for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week and you will be slim in no time. Watch your diet a little, but it’s really all in the cardio. Oh, and don’t worry so much about strength training…it’s overrated and plus it will bulk you up!”
I’ve heard comments like these over the years. Is it true though? Is this how you really lose weight and keep it off?
Not really. There’s a lot more to it than that.
Having a good grip on one’s nutrition has to be the primary component in weight loss. After all, when you really get down to it, weight maintenance is essentially a calories in versus calories out equation. You can do all of the exercise you want, but if you go out and have a super sized double whopper combo with extra seasoned fries right after, then it’s going to be extremely difficult to get your weight where you want it. If you skip breakfast it’s also going to be hard. If you go long periods during the day without eating or if you have really big meals late at night, it’s also going to be difficult. Nutrition is often the the forgotten part of the weight loss equation when it should really be the centerpiece.
However, what if you are following a sound nutritional program? Does that mean that cardiovascular exercise is the best form of exercise to support your improved nutritional habits and increase your weight management success? Well, the research that is out now will tell you that this is probably true. There’s no way to argue the benefits of cardiovascular training in weight management. Continuous aerobic exercise that is done at a moderate or vigorous intensity does burn calories. Hormonal adaptations to aerobic training also make you more effective at using fat as an energy source. It’s been known for years. BUT, I’m going to argue that doing something else in conjunction with cardiovascular exercise is going to be even better. And that, my friends, is resistance training. You may liken it to adding a couple slices of pepperoni to a meatball sub. It’s still great without, but with it added in…man, what an awesome sandwich! I realize that meatball subs and weight loss don’t mesh that well in the same topic, but work with me here. Plus, I’m starving. But I digress…
Back to the topic at hand. There are many benefits to incorporating strength training into one’s exercise routine to make it well balanced and more effective in weight management.
Check out a snippet from a review on an American College of Sports Medicine research article regarding lifting weight to lose weight.
“Sure, aerobic exercise burns calories, but the bodyís metabolism quickly returns to pre-exercise levels, usually within 30 minutes or so. Resistance training, according to the researchers at Johns Hopkins University, leads to increased calorie burning for up to two hours after the workout is over. Carol A. Binzen and colleagues recruited 10 moderately trained women to perform three sets of 10 exercises at 10-repetition maximum with a one-minute rest period between each set. Researchers found that fat oxidation was significantly higher after the strength-training session.
Unfortunately, because weight training often results in a corresponding increase in weight due to increased muscle mass, many women abandon their strength-training efforts, opting instead for strictly cardiovascular activities. However, researchers suggest combining aerobic exercise with regular strength training for maximum benefit.”
Link to article here
Here’s another interesting point to ponder for the sport science junkies out there. Many people don’t realize that during weight loss, one’s resting energy expenditure (REE) often decreases. Resting energy expenditure basically represents the number of calories you burn in a 24 hour period if you were just sitting around on the couch (thus at rest). Basically, the reason why REE drops is because you are smaller than you once were, with less mass around to burn calories. With a lower daily energy expenditure, the same diet that contributed to weight loss success in the past, may not be as effective in the future. However, research has shown that resistance training helps to maintain or even increase REE as one loses weight. By helping to preserve muscle mass (which is more metabolically active than fat mass), you increase the amount of calories that your body burns per day and this can help you to keep weight off in the long run.
For more information on this phenomenon, check out this article, entitled Resistance training conserves fat-free mass and resting energy expenditure following weight loss.
Finally, on a sad note, Jack LaLanne passed away this week at the ripe old age of 96. For those of you who don’t know, Jack was a huge pioneer in the fitness industry. He swam the length the the golden gate bridge underwater, did 1000 push ups in under 20 minutes, towed 65 tug boats filled with pulpwood, and performed many other amazing fitness feats during his life. To put it simply, this guy was a beast. He also helped develop many pieces of exercise equipment that are still in use today. Check out this link to learn more about Jack and what he accomplished during his lifetime.
Jamie Ives, MA, CSCS
Jamie has several years of experience in the fitness industry, working with clients of various ages, ability levels, and health conditions. He enjoys using his knowledge as well as his experience in exercise prescription and program design to help each of his clients reach their individual wellness goals and improve their quality of life. For more information about Empower Personal Training, please call (919) 401-8024