With strength training, you don’t merely lose weight – you give yourself the leaner, healthier body of someone who’s naturally slim. The benefits start with muscle and metabolism, but they go even further.
Here’s how strength training helps you lose weight forever:
PRESERVES MUSCLE AND BONE AS YOU SHED FAT
I’ve already explained that women may lose muscle when they diet. Another disturbing finding, of particular concern to women:
At least seven well-controlled studies have shown that when you diet and lose weight, you lose bone too. A 1994 study done at the Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham England, studied pre-menopausal women who dieted for three months. Even though they followed a sensible food plan for modest weight loss (the average was just 7.5 pounds), they lost 1 percent of their bone mass. That may not sound like much, but it’s an alarming change for so short a period in women under age 50, who normally lose no more than half a percent in an entire year.
We know that strength training can preserve and even build muscle when women are losing weight, and we think that it may help prevent bone loss as well. Several investigators currently are examining this question, and I look forward to seeing their results.
REVS UP YOUR METABOLISM
Have you ever noticed that your male friends and relatives can eat much more than you do without gaining weight? Men really do have a metabolic advantage. But the explanation isn’t their hormones, it’s their muscles.
Strength training gives your metabolism a boost. You burn calories when you strength train – and you also burn more calories throughout the day when you have more lean tissue. In a study by Wayne Campbell, PhD, in our laboratory, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the combined difference amounted to about 15 percent. That translates into an extra 300 calories per day for the average woman. Pat, one of the women in the study, comments:
“You know how after you go off a diet you want to eat everything in sight, especially the things you haven’t been eating? When you get rid of the fat and have more muscle, then you can eat a little more and not feel deprived.”
FIRMS AND TIGHTENS, SO YOU LOOK TRIMMER
A pound of fat is bulkier than a pound of muscle. So if your weight loss is almost all fat, you’ll look trimmer than if you lose lean tissue too. Many of them dropped one to three sizes because their bodies were more toned. Angela, one of my clients:
“The other day I needed a dress for a wedding. My teenage daughter had a navy sheath that was perfect. But I had been size 14 going on size 16, and this was size 12. Also, the dress didn’t have sleeves and I’d never worn anything sleeveless because my arms were always too flabby. I tried it on anyway. My daughter said, ‘It looks great – your arms aren’t flabby at all!’ So that’s what I wore to the wedding.”
EASES YOU INTO A MORE ACTIVE LIFESTYLE
Becoming more active is a not only a tremendous help to weight loss – it’s also the key to staying slim. First, you burn extra calories when you move. Second, your metabolism remains slightly elevated for several hours after exercise. Third, there’s evidence that being active helps tame your appetite. Moreover, an active lifestyle conditions your heart and lungs, making you fitter and healthier.
The problem is that many overweight women don’t enjoy physical activity – and for good reason. Understandably, they feel self-conscious about pulling on spandex leggings and joining an exercise class. Even walking has little appeal for someone who’s out of shape, especially if her joints ache and she becomes winded in a few minutes.
Strength training makes all the difference. The stronger your muscles, the easier it is to get moving.
MAKE YOU HEALTHIER
How many times have you heard about a weight loss method that carries alarming risks – surgery that could shorten your life, pills that might damage your heart? Strength training is different. Instead of risks and side effects, it offers impressive health advantages. All women benefit from increased strength. Women over age 40 gain even more, because strength training reverses age-related muscle and bone loss; it even improves balance and flexibility. Strength training is one of the most effective ways to combat osteoporosis and the frailty too often associated with aging.
* * * * *
“When I was 36, I had a blood clot in my leg that went to my lung. I’m 48 now, and I’m looking toward menopause. I know I’m not a candidate for estrogen therapy. Strength training is a great alternative.”
* * * * *
HELPS YOU FEEL GOOD ABOUT YOURSELF
When I work with women who are strength training, some of the most significant changes I see are emotional. Physical strength is something that women rarely expect of themselves. But when a woman becomes strong, her self-confidence and self-esteem soar. The effect is especially powerful for women who are overweight and sedentary. Many suffer from a terribly negative self-image. They hate the way they look; they despair of being able to change. They feel physically incompetent and alienated from their own bodies.
Excess weight is a handicap for many forms of exercise – but not for strength training. Indeed, very heavy women are often quite strong. It’s always a special joy to watch an overweight woman – someone who has never succeeded at any physical activity in her entire life – discover that she’s not merely capable of lifting weights but actually good at it! Her whole view of herself is transformed. Being stronger physically makes her emotionally stronger too. Changes that previously seemed out of reach suddenly become doable.
Over and over, I’ve seen strength training open the door for weight loss.