by Jeanne Rhodes
It’s that time of year again and we’re back into exercise with high hopes of losing our holiday weight gain and hopefully even more! And so, it is time again to be reminded that exercise “smart” produces tremendously better results than exercise “harder”! Part of exercise “smart” is including some resistance exercise along with your aerobic exercise routine.
Studies show that aerobically fit people have more mitochondria (the tiny “boiler rooms” inside muscle cells where fat is turned into energy) than do people who are out of shape. But, as good as it is, aerobic conditioning isn’t the whole story. Another way to make your body burn calories is to add some sort of resistance training to your exercise routine - lifting free weights or working out on weight machines, even doing exercises with a stretch band - to build muscle. Both fat and muscle require energy just to maintain themselves. But muscle is “expensive” tissue, says Wayne Wescott, a national strength training consultant. A pound of muscle burns 50 to 70 calories a day just to stay alive. Fat, on the other hand, needs only two calories per pound per day. So the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn just sitting around clicking the buttons on your television’s remote control.
In one study, Westcott had 72 people follow the same dietary guidelines and then exercise for 30 minutes three times a week for eight weeks. These 72 people were divided into two groups. Both groups exercised for 30 minutes - one group did only aerobic exercise; another group did aerobic exercise and weight machines combination.
At the end of eight weeks, the 30 minutes of aerobics-only group had lost three pounds of fat and a half-pound of muscle. The combination aerobics/weights group lost 10 pounds of fat and gained two pounds of muscle. Both groups exercised 30 minutes, but what a difference in results - thanks to exercise “smart”.
Resistance exercise keeps you lean and strong from your 20’s into middle age and beyond. While aging does influence the rate at which you burn calories, the real culprit is a sedentary life. The main reason people put on weight as they get older is that their activity level decreases and they lose muscle while gaining fat.
Occasionally, women will shun weight training for fear of building bulky muscles, a fear that is totally unfounded. A woman does not have enough male sex hormones to grow huge muscles no matter how hard she tries. Realistically, it is not unusual for women in their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond, to have younger and shapelier bodies as a result of their resistance exercise training. Unlike men, women look smaller and firmer as fat is reduced and “cellulite” disappears. “Proof of the pudding” is that today’s top fashion models, both men and women, are very much aware of these benefits and use resistance exercise to insure their modeling careers by keeping their bodies firm, healthy and attractive.
If for no other reason, it is important that women use resistance exercise to ward off osteoporosis. Bone loss in women begins in the 30s and continues with a loss of about one percent of their bone mass per year from age 30 to age 50. This loss will accelerate when they pass through menopause. Resistance exercise will increase bone density to prevent or halt this progress which leads to osteoporosis.
The bottom line? Welcome back to exercise - it’s the greatest investment of time you’ll ever make! Just remember to exercise “smart”!
Rhodes, B.A., M.A., is a Nutritionist, Author, Wellness Lifestyle Strategist, and Owner/Director of Rhodes Preventive Health Institute in Hagerstown, MD.