When starting on a new fitness journey, many people think that the best way to lose weight is to do lots of cardio. There is a common misconception that sticking to cardio burns more calories – maybe because all those machines we use give a calorie burn measure on their screens. Unfortunately, all that cardio may be doing you more harm than good when it comes to your weight loss goals.
When starting on a new fitness journey, many people think that the best way to lose weight is to do lots of cardio. There is a common misconception that sticking to cardio burns more calories – maybe because all those machines we use give a calorie burn measure on their screens. Unfortunately, all that cardio may be doing you more harm than good when it comes to your weight loss goals. Doing too much cardio can actually cause you to lose lean muscle mass, which slows down your metabolism and makes it harder for you to burn fat.
The human body is extremely adaptive, and adapts to any external stimuli we place on it. The same 30-minute cardio session that you’ve been doing every day isn’t burning as many calories as it was when you first started doing it. The body comes to expect it, and in an effort to keep us alive, it adapts to these stressors because it sees them as a threat. Our body wants to conserve energy, so it gets more efficient at doing the same activities every day. That means that if you want to continue to see results, you have to keep increasing that stimuli – meaning you have to do more and more to just keep up with the same results, and eventually just maintain them!
Sounds like a lot of work, right? But there’s a way to continue getting those amazing results without killing yourself on the treadmill. It’s resistance training! Incorporating resistance training into your fitness program can help you increase lean muscle mass, increase metabolism, and burn more fat than just cardio exercise alone. Remember that too much cardio has the opposite effect, and can decrease lean muscle mass and slow metabolism. Research has shown that combining both aerobic training and resistance training into a weight loss program has the greatest results in fat loss.
Let’s talk about what resistance training is. Resistance training is a form of exercise in which you use your muscles against some opposing force, such as dumbbells, strength training machines, resistance bands, and even your own body weight. The best part about resistance training is that there is progression with your exercises. As you get stronger, you progress with the movements by either adding more weight or increasing the complexity of the movement to continue challenging your body. If you continue to progress, you won’t hit those plateaus that you do with aerobic training.
Anyone can benefit from resistance training. As we age, we actually lose lean muscle mass – it’s just a part of growing up (Peter Pan was right, huh?). Inactive adults lose anywhere from 3% to 8% of lean muscle mass every 10 years, which results in slowed metabolism and weight gain. If you’ve noticed you can’t eat as much as you used to without gaining weight, this is why! But you can get that lean muscle mass back by doing resistance training. Even kids can benefit from resistance training, but safety precautions must be taken into consideration.
Research has proven that strength training also helps balance hormones, making it easier for you to lose weight and keep it off. Some of the hormones that come into play are testosterone and human growth factor, both of which help increase lean muscle mass, increase metabolism, and burn fat. In addition, clinical studies have shown that strength training can reduce symptoms of depression and improve the quality of your sleep.
You’ll find that incorporating resistance training into your fitness program will help you feel more energized and stronger in your everyday life. Carrying the groceries won’t be so hard for you anymore, playing with your kids will be a breeze, and other tasks that you used to dread doing won’t seem so bad anymore!
Here is a list of a few things to keep in mind if you’re just starting a strength training program:
- Begin strength training by selecting lighter weights, and as you get comfortable with the movement you can begin increasing weight. Aim for 12-15 reps, and 2-3 sets of each movement.
- Make sure you rest between each set. Take about one to two minutes to allow glycogen stores to replenish so that you can fully complete the remaining sets.
- Select exercises that are appropriate for your level of fitness. If you don’t know where to start, it’s good to have a personal trainer or a member of your gym’s staff help you.
- Allow for proper rest between each workout. Weight training causes muscles to break down first, which requires them to repair themselves to come back stronger. Muscle growth happens during the rest period, not during the workout. Don’t repeat working the same muscle group for at least 48 hours after your previous workout.
So the next time you think about heading for those cardio machines and calling it a day, maybe take a detour to the weights instead! Remember, a complete fitness program has four components to it: resistance training, cardio, flexibility, and rest/recovery. Include all of these into your lifestyle, and you’ll be set!