When you think about using exercise to burn fat and lose those love handles what do you see? If you are like most, you envision hours of mind numbing drudgery on a treadmill or some other piece of cardio equipment measuring your success solely by the number of “calories burned” displayed on your chosen apparatus. It’s true that cardiovascular exercise is an effective way to burn calories while you are exercising (and for a short while after) but what if you could increase your calorie expenditure, and thus your fat loss, all day every day, even when you’re not exercising, even while you sleep? Enter strength training.
Build a bigger engine
Strength training is key to long term weight and fat loss success. Simply defined, strength training involves performing movement against some sort of resistance. This resistance could be your body weight when performing a push-up or pull-up or it could involve the use of some external resistance such as a weighted barbell across your back when performing a squat. Strength training builds larger muscles and larger muscles require a lot of energy (think calories) to function. By incorporating a well rounded strength training program into your weight loss plan you will build muscle that will naturally increase the number of calories that you burn when you exercise, sit around the house or even sleep! Think about it, which burns more gasoline a little Honda Civic with a 4 cylinder engine or a large Chevy Tahoe SUV with a gas guzzling V8 engine? Obviously, the big V8 requires a lot more gas to go the same distance as the Honda. Even if you were just sitting at a stop light the V8 would use more gasoline. So essentially by building more muscle through strength training, you are building a bigger engine and thus burning more calories and fat every second of every day.
It’s not all about the numbers on the scale
One thing is important to note. After you have been working your strength training program for a few weeks it is possible that you will notice a plateau in weight loss or even a small increase in body weight when you step on the scale. If you have been sticking with your dietary plan and have been incorporating more physical activity into your day you shouldn’t worry too much about this. Chances are you are building muscle not gaining fat, this is natural and it is a good thing! I would encourage you to take a tape measure and take measurements around your stomach at the level of your belly button prior to starting your strength training. What you should notice as you transition into your strength training program is that even if your weight loss stalls or you begin to gain a small amount of weight according to the scale, you will continue to lose inches. The loss of inches is fat loss and the gain or maintenance of body weight is actually the muscle you are building. You are losing the inches but holding steady on weight because muscle is more dense than fat, meaning muscle takes up less space for the same amount of weight. At the end of the day, if you are strength training and on a weight loss program keeping track of inches lost is a more accurate marker of overall progress and success.
Above and beyond weight loss
Losing fat is a great goal but it is not the only benefit of strength training. One of the biggest benefits of strength training is also one of the biggest benefits of preventative Chiropractic care, an improvement in mobility and quality of life throughout your entire life! In addition to premature degeneration from spine and joint misalignments a loss of muscle mass, or sarcopenia, is a major contributor to disability as we age. Chances are you have a grandparent, parent, aunt or uncle that suffers from sarcopenia. They’re frail, fragile and have difficulty getting up out of chair, walking around the grocery store and certainly lifting a grandchild. They may be in good spirits but how much better would their life be if they had known how to slow this life altering side effect of aging? They would be more capable of actively participating in life as opposed to watching it go by. So it begs the question, how to do we combat sarcopenia and maintain our quality of life? By simply eating a nutritious diet and continually challenging our muscles through resistance training. “Use it or lose it” really does apply in this case. Our bodies are designed to respond to the stress we put on it. If we continue to nourish our bodies and challenge our bodies with resistance training we will maintain our muscle mass and ability to function for a much longer period of time, build stronger bones so we have less risk of fractures (another huge issue in the elderly) and even enhance our cognitive abilities to prevent or delay the onset the neurodegenerative diseases that can accompany aging. Strength training has been proven to accomplish all of this and much, much more. Throw some preventative Chiropractic care into the mix of good nutrition and resistance training and you have a recipe for a great retirement for a very long time!