Attention cardio queens (and kings) everywhere: cardio works well at helping people shed excess weight, but it isn’t the only answer. In fact, doing too much cardiovascular exercise can hinder weight loss efforts. I, too, once thought cardio was the only way to trim down, get healthy and feel good. Well, I was so wrong!
Cardiovascular exercise is an important component of weight loss, and it does have its benefits. It gets your blood pumping through your arteries at a higher pace than normal, preventing the plaque that leads to heart problems from settling in your arteries. Since cardio requires energy from your body, it burns calories.
However, it’s strength training that will help you lose weight and see results that last. Here’s the deal: once your body loses a certain amount of body fat, it will come to a halt in order to preserve homeostasis (AKA: a comfortable place for your body to stay). Once you have burned off a certain amount of body fat with cardio, your body will start to burn muscle in addition to fat.
In order to prevent a weight loss plateau and maintain your lean muscle mass, you will need to incorporate strength training into your routine. Benefits of strength training include:
- Builds muscle mass, which will in turn build strength and prevent future injuries (and adds tone to your body).
- Adds metabolically active tissue to your body, meaning it uses energy to survive. With every pound of muscle you build, you are burning more calories when you are at rest.
- Improves bone density and prevents osteoporosis, which is a common problem for many men and women as they age.
I often get asked by women if strength training will make them big, but women don’t have the testosterone to bulk up like men do. It’s not hormonally possible for a woman to get bulky muscles like a man.
A Note on Nutrition
What you’re eating affects this whole equation. When you are cutting calories, you will most likely lose muscle mass along with any fat you lose. This may cause your metabolism to slow down, resulting in not losing weight as fast as you would like or hitting a plateau. By building lean muscle, you are more likely to keep burning calories long term.
As you continue to build up your endurance and lift heavier weights, you will continue to add more lean muscle mass. This, in turn, will burn more calories during the day. Make sure you are eating enough to support new muscle growth.
Start any weight training program slowly. Lifting too much too fast can do more harm than good. Seek advice from experts at Sports Advantage powered by EXOS.
Strength training is awesome, but it should not replace your cardio program. Get on a program that consists of both cardiovascular and strength training for optimal health benefits.
(This article was adapted from an article written for Dashing Dish.)
Emily Spicer is a health and wellness specialist at Altru Health System. With a positive approach to overall wellness, she inspires people to take control of their lives through a focused commitment toward better health and to make that choice a habitual and natural one. In her free time, Emily enjoys a good workout, playing tennis and spending time with her family and friends.