Food Freedom Friday Edition 66 - Why Weights

Conventional wisdom has led us to believe that the only way to lose weight is to do extensive amounts cardiovascular exercise. Calories in vs calories out right? Have you been running  or taking high impact fitness classes five or more times a week and noticed, that even though your body may (or not) feel a littlesmaller, you still have those soft, jiggly parts? A little aerobic exercise (what you call cardio) is important for good health, but, for optimal health, wellness and fat loss, there is much more than just a simple one-stop solution.

For optimal fitness, longevity, and a lean body, weight training is essential. If you avoid pumping iron because you fear getting too ‘bulky’ then you may be missing out on one of the most effective fat-burning methods you could have in your arsenal.

When you weight training, you relying exclusively on the scale to gauge your progress is not ideal. You can use a body fat tester or a tape measure to track how much body fat or many inches you have lost. The size of your body will shrink as you shed fat and build muscle, but your weight may not change as dramatically as you expect. When you stop to think about it, what truly is more important, the number on the scale or how you look in your skinny jeans?

If you are still not convinced that you need to lift weights, let me entice you a little further:  

1.       Burn More Fat.

When you do an intense weight-training program, your metabolism stays elevated and you continue to burn fat for several hours afterward. During regular cardio exercise, you stop burning fat shortly after the workout.

2.       Change Your Shape.

You may think your genes determine how you look but generally that is not necessarily true. Weight training can slim you down, create new curves, and help avoid the spreading of your waist.  If you fear getting too large or bulky, think again. Women just do not have enough muscle-building hormones to gain a lot of mass like men do. If you keep eat well and lift regularly you will burn fat.

3.       Boost Your Metabolism.

The less muscle you have, the slower your metabolism will be. As women age, they lose muscle at increasing rates, especially after the age of 40. When you diet without doing resistance training, up to 25 percent of your weight loss may end up being be muscle loss. Weight training while eating whole, real foods based diet can help you preserve and even rebuild muscle fibers. The more lean mass you have, the higher your metabolism will be and the more energy you will be able to burn all day long, whether exercising or not.

4.       Get Stronger.

Lifting weights increases functional fitness, which makes everyday tasks such as carrying children, lifting grocery bags, and picking up heavy suitcases much easier. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular weight training can make you 50 percent stronger in just 6 months. Being strong is also empowering. Not only does it improve your physical activities, it builds emotional strength by boosting self-esteem and confidence.

5.       Build strong bones.

It is a well-documented fact that women need to do weight-bearing exercise to build and maintain bone mass, and to prevent osteoporosis. Just as muscles get stronger and bigger with use, so do your bones when they are made to bear weight. Stronger bones and increased muscle mass also lead to better flexibility and balance, which is especially important for women as they age.

6.       Fight depression.

You may have heard how cardio and low-impact exercises such as yoga help alleviate depression and increase feelings of overall well-being. Lifting weights has the same effect. The endorphins that are released during aerobic activities are also present during resistance training. Many women find that regular strength training, in conjunction with psychological treatment, are non-pharmacological ways to support lessening their depression symptoms substantially.

7.       Improve Fitness.

There is no need to be an athlete to get the sports benefit of weight training. Improved muscle mass and strength will help you in all physical activities, whether it is bicycling with the family, walking the dog, swimming, golfing, or skiing…whatever sport you enjoy.

8.       Reduce Injuries.

Weight lifting improves joint stability and builds stronger ligaments and tendons. Training safely and with proper form can help decrease the likelihood of injuries in your daily life. It can also improve physical function in people with arthritis. Regular weight bearing work outs (customized for your ability of course!) increases the frequency and intensity at which you are able to live, with less pain and increased range of movement.

9.       Heart Health.

More than 480,000 women die from cardiovascular disease each year, making it the number-one killer of women over the age of 25. Most people have not yet realized that pumping iron and lifting a few heavy things can also keep your heart pumping. Lifting weights increases your ‘good’ (HDL) cholesterol and decreases your ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol. It also lowers your blood pressure. As little as 30 minutes of weight lifting each week can reduce your risk of developing heart disease by almost 25% compared to those who do not incorporate weight lifting into their lifestyle.

10.   Blood Sugar Regulation.

In addition to keeping your heart strong and resilient, weight training can improve glucose utilization (the way your body processes sugar) and support stabilizing and regulating your blood sugar levels. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 weeks of strength training can improve glucose metabolism in a way that is comparable to taking diabetes medication. The more lean mass you have, the more efficient your body is at removing glucose (sugar created from carbohydrates) from the blood, which can reduce complications from diabetes and even help prevent type 2 diabetes in the first place.

Incorporating some weight lifting into your lifestyle can have so many immediate and long term benefits. The key is to start slowly, seek professional advice, create and program that works for you (often no gym is even required) and learning to listen carefully to your body. Try it!

Michal Ofer