Time to lose that fear of lifting weights
Trade one weekly cardio workout for a strength- training session and you’ll see waist-whittling results far more quickly. Lifting weights may be the single most efficient way to score a slimmer, sexier body. It also gives you an edge over belly fat, stress, heart disease and cancer. So why aren’t more of us doing it?
MYTH 1 Cardio burns more kilojoules
Experts used to think that aerobic exercise burned more kilojoules than pumping iron. It feels true – not every trip to the weights room leaves you drenched and out of breath like a killer spinning class does. But it turns out that strength training has more kilojoule-torching potential than it’s been given credit for. Researchers in the US found that completing a circuit of eight moves (taking about eight minutes) can expend 665kJ to 965kJ. This is about what you’d burn if you ran at a 16km-per-hour pace for the same duration.
In fact, the term “cardio” shouldn’t be limited to just aerobic exercise. A study from the University of Hawaii found that circuit training with weights raises your heart rate 15 beats per minute higher than if you ran at 60 to 70 percent of your max heart rate. The circuit approach provides cardiovascular benefits similar to those of aerobic exercise, while strengthening your muscles – so you save time without sacrificing results.
Read More: 5 Common Cardio Myths – Busted!
And if that isn’t reason enough, unlike aerobic exercise, the researchers found that a total-body workout with just three big-muscle moves raised participants’ metabolisms for 39 hours afterwards. And that means your body will continue to burn kilojoules at a higher rate long after you’ve kicked off your trainers.
MYTH 2 You can outrun belly fat
Weight training torches body fat better than hours of cardio – plain and simple. In one US study, a group of dieters lifted three times a week and another did aerobic exercise for the same length of time. Both groups consumed the same number of kilojoules, and both shed the same amount of weight (13kg). But those who pumped iron dropped 100 percent fat, whereas the cardio group lost 92 percent fat and eight percent muscle. And this is why that really matters.
Read More: What’s Your Flab Really Telling You?
Muscle loss may drop your scale weight, but it doesn’t improve your reflection in the mirror, and it makes you more likely to gain back the flab you lost. But if you strength-train while you diet, you’ll build lean muscle mass and burn more fat. Experts estimate that for every 1.5kg of muscle you build, you can burn an extra 500kJ a day, because muscle takes more energy to sustain. Over the course of a year, that’s about 5kg of fat – without spending more time in the gym or changing your diet.
MYTH 3 Aerobic exercise keeps your heart healthy
Okay, yes, that’s true, but cardio isn’t the only way to get your blood pumping. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that people who did three total-body weight workouts a week for two months reduced their diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) by an average of eight points. That’s enough to reduce risk of stroke by 40 percent and the chance of a heart attack by 15 percent.
Read More: The Body-Weight Challenge Workout
University of South Carolina researchers found that total- body strength is linked to reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Other scientists found that being strong during middle age is associated with “exceptional survival,” which is defined as living to 85 without developing a major disease.
MYTH 4 Lifting makes you bulky
Women often think they shouldn’t lift because they want to be toned, long and lean, not bulky. But the fact is that muscles are, by definition, lean and their length is set once our body is mature. No workout can make them leaner in themselves and, outside of surgery, there isn’t much you can do to alter their length. In fact, there are only two ways that muscle can go: it can either get bigger or smaller.
If you want to look toned, your body fat needs to be low enough that it doesn’t create too much padding over your muscles. When you build muscle, but don’t attack the body fat that lies on top of it, you may feel bigger and heavier. Methods like Pilates and yoga typically don’t use as much resistance, which may mean you won’t build as much muscle, so even if your body-fat percentage remains the same, you at least don’t feel as if you’re getting denser. Those types of exercise also help improve posture, which can give you the appearance of being longer and leaner.
Read More: Which is Actually Better: Cardio Or Weights?
Such light-resistance methods can actually sabotage your goals in the long-run. Research shows that between the ages of 30 and 50, you’ll probably lose 10 percent of your body’s total muscle. And it’s likely to be replaced by fat. Even participants who maintained their body weight for up to 38 years lost 1.5kg of muscle and added 1.5kg of fat each decade.
Why does that matter? Because even if their body weight remained the same, their dress size didn’t. Lean muscle mass actually has 18 percent less volume than a similar amount of body fat. So, building lean muscle mass through strength training is the real secret to revealing a leaner, more toned body.
MYTH 5 To run better, you must run more
It turns out that extra pavement-pounding isn’t the only, or necessarily the most effective, way to become a better runner. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that runners who did resistance- training exercises two or three days a week, in addition to their weekly cardio, increased their leg strength and enhanced their endurance – two things that improve performance and contribute to weight loss.
Lifting can also keep you injury-free. A study in Clinical Biomechanics found that female runners who did six weeks of lower-body exercises improved their leg strength, particularly in the hips – a common source of pain and injury for runners.
Looking for more? Here are three major things your resting heart rate can tell you about your health.