You could blame it on habit or natural abilities, but there’s often a split between weight lifters and cardio addicts. While some prefer to grunt it out under heavy objects, you may prefer to cover some distance, amp up your heart rate, and move — free of any excess weight. Cardio can be addictive and exhilarating. It burns a hefty number of calories, increases your metabolism, and releases a dose of “feel good” hormones. It’s a great way to burn fat and lose weight, but after months of continual training, even the biggest cardio fan is sure to feel the lag. Take the hint and switch things up. If you want to keep your body healthy and lose weight, it’s vital that you pepper in some strength training and keep an eye on your diet. This is why.
1. Muscle burns fat
Muscle actually burns fat, so the more lean muscle you put on, the less fat you will have. Muscle serves as the body’s calorie burning powerhouse. It can impact your basal metabolic rate, or BMR, which determines how many calories you burn if you just lied in bed all day and did nothing. The more muscle you have, the higher this rate will be and the more calories your body will burn by just keeping you alive.
2. Food is critical
When you’re trying to lose weight, it’s not uncommon to spend most of your time obsessing over your workouts. According to obesity expert Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, featured in a Lifehacker story, most people tend to focus on exercise rather than diet when trying to lose weight. While both are important, Freedhoff goes on to say that you shouldn’t forgo healthy eating to get in that long run. For long-term weight loss, you’ll need to develop a sustainable relationship with both food and exercise, but spending a few minutes with a food diary is likely to have a bigger impact on your weight than 30 minutes at the gym.
3. Muscle reshapes the body
You can lose plenty of weight through diet and steady cardio workouts, but weight lifting is the secret to transforming your trouble spots. When you lose weight and trim down, you may look slimmer, but you’ll still feel a jiggle around your stomach, under your arms, or wherever you tend to carry excess fat. Lifting weights can reshape your body through the process of building muscle. Incorporate weight lifting and watch as your flabby areas get tightened and toned.
4. Weight training increases metabolism
Wouldn’t it be nice to burn more calories while you settle in and watch TV, cook dinner, or drive to work? It’s not a pipe dream. In a study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, women who completed an hour-long strength-training workout burned an average of 100 more calories in the 24 hours afterward than those who skipped the weights and did cardio alone. This “afterburn” effect is one of weight lifting’s great weight loss secrets.
5. Lifting weights is great for mobility
Here’s the thing about running and cycling — they tighten and shorten your muscles. Weight lifting, on the other hand takes you through a full range of motion, Men’s Health explains. The publication takes the lunge, for example, and compares it to running. Lunges strengthen your hips and thighs and improve hip mobility way more than running does. To get the most out of a lower-body exercise routine, go for both exercises. But doing lunges regularly can improve your cardio significantly.
6. Muscle fights disease
Weight-bearing activities increase bone density, which prevents osteoporosis, a disease that can afflict people who are in good shape with a slim build. Major studies have found that muscle mass can fight the onset of type-2 diabetes, strengthen the heart to fight heart disease, and relieve symptoms of arthritis.