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The Secret Weapon of Weight Loss and Physical Health

Posted Jun 08 2009 7:02pm

When I started teaching aerobics classes in college, I mostly taught the then-popular typical classes of Step, Double Step, Hi/Lo Impact, Body Sculpting and Abdominal classes.  But after college, when I taught for Bally’s Total Fitness, I started teaching a class called Body Pump.

Body Pump went beyond body sculpting and incorporated strength training with REAL weights (we actually used barbells, not dumbbells).  It would involve a circuit of exercises that would target all major muscle groups for a full hour.  This was when my love affair with weight training began.  After teaching the class for a couple of months, I started to see my body transform into a leaner, more sculpted one.  I fell in love with the muscles I developed and felt sexier and stronger.  Today, although I’m not teaching anymore, weight training is core to my exercise regimen.

When I see women and men running endlessly on the treadmill and then complain that they don’t look the way they want, the first thing I tell them is that they are overdoing the cardio and should stop running so much!  It is a myth that cardio is the best way to lose weight and to maintain a healthy weight.  Here is why strength training is the secret weapon to weight loss and overall health:

  1. Increases Lean Body Mass: Strength training helps to keep our body fat to lean body mass ratio lower.  This means we look better and feel stronger.  But even more importantly, it impacts our metabolism…the speed at which we burn calories.
  2. Increases Your Metabolism: Average adults see a 2% - 5% reduction in metabolic rate every 10 years.  This makes it more and more difficult to keep unwanted weight off.  As we mentioned above, however, strength training increases muscle mass which makes your muscles stronger.  Stronger muscles, in turn, take up and burn blood sugar more efficiently and for a longer period of time than does cardio.
  3. Reduces Risk of Injury: Strength training increases muscular and bone strength, and also improves function of tendons, joints and ligaments.  All of this increased strength in your musculoskeletal system enhances your balance, flexibility and functional ability.  This leads to a decreased chance of sustaining an injury that can be painful, debilitating and costly.
  4. A Healthy Heart: Running isn’t the only form of exercise that will enhance your cardio strength.  Believe it or not, strength training can have as much of a positive impact on your cardiovascular strength and your blood pressure, as does cardio.  Be sure that you are working intensely, however, as just as it is important to work hard when you are doing cardio, you should be challenging yourself when you are doing strength training.
  5. Wards off Disease: Adults lose 5 - 7 lbs. of muscle every 10 years, which directly impacts bone loss.  This can lead to osteoporosis.  Further, we become more susceptible to arthritis, back pain and high blood pressure.  Strength training can do wonders in warding off these bad boys.  Further, strength training can help to improve good cholesterol levels, glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity in your body, warding off diseases such as Diabetes.
  6. Emotional Wellbeing: Just like any type of exercise, strength training does wonders when it comes to improving mood and outlook, and maintaining healthy sleep patterns…all of which improves our overall wellbeing.

So next time you get on the treadmill or elliptical trainer to burn off 300 calories, stop.  Try incorporating some weights into your fitness plan.  Some great resources include:

Do you do strength training?  What do you like about it?  Do you think it makes a big difference in your health?

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