*This is a guest post from Meraki Lane.
Pre-pandemic, strength training was never part of my weekly workout routine. While I longed for toned arms and 6-pack abs, the idea of lifting hand-held weights at the gym sounded overwhelming, intimidating, and not something I needed to worry about. I often read about the importance of strength training for weight loss in magazines, but could never wrap my head around the idea that giving up my morning sweat sesh in favor of lifting weights would improve my fitness. I always assumed cardio was king and spent the greater part of my adult life trying to out-run my diet. Calories in versus calories out, right?
But then I turned 43, the world shut down, and my body started telling me a different story.
So I went back and re-read the literature about strength training for weight loss and decided to give it a try. I started with body weight exercises, slowly introduced 5 lb weights, and can now bench press 25 lb dumbbells. I’ve been lifting for almost 18 months now, and I’m here to tell you that the science behind strength training for weight loss is true. I’ve lost body fat, my clothes are loser, I have definition in my arms and legs, and I can see my abs.
Whether you’re just getting started with your weight loss journey, or you’re ready to take things to the next level and work on your body composition, I’m excited to partner with Ativafit to share the benefits of strength training for weight loss, plus my best tips for getting started!
5 Benefits of Strength Training for Weight Loss
1. IMPROVES METABOLISM
One of the biggest benefits of strength training for weight loss is that it boosts your metabolism. While cardio exercises burn more calories per session, weight training helps you burn more calories all day, every day. Why? Because muscle maintenance requires more calories than fat maintenance, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn even when you’re resting.
2. CREATES AN AFTERBURN EFFECT
If you’re on a quest to lose weight, you’ve probably heard of something called ‘the afterburn effect.’ Known scientifically as ‘excess post-exercise oxygen consumption’ or EPOC, this is the process by which your body continues burning calories long after you’ve finished your workout. Your body needs to recover, repair damaged muscle, rebalance your hormones, and restock its fuel stores after exercise, and it expends energy to accomplish these things. The more intense your workout, the more energy expenditure it will take for your body to return to its resting state, resulting in a greater afterburn effect. High intensity interval training, or HIIT workouts trigger the greatest afterburn effect, but that doesn’t mean you have to engage in sprint intervals to reap the benefits. Circuit strength training that uses compound movements and/or super sets create a decent afterburn effect. The key is to use heavy weights with shorter recovery periods between exercises.
3. REDUCES VISCERAL FAT
Many women gain weight during the transition to menopause, particularly around their midsection, which can be extremely frustrating. Our metabolism slows down as we age, and some research suggests that peri- and post-menopausal women burn up to 300 fewer calories per day compared to when they were in their early 20s. Falling estrogen can also cause fat in your bum, hips, and thighs to be redistributed to your midsection, and as your waist circumference increases, so does your risk for developing things like diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.
Many peri- and post-menopausal women turn to cardio exercises in an attempt to lose belly fat since these types of workouts burn more calories per session. What they don’t realize is that weight training builds and maintains muscle mass in a way that cardio can’t, allowing us to burn more calories while at rest so we can lose and maintain our weight more easily.
4. PRESERVES BONE HEALTH
In addition to increased visceral fat, post-menopausal women are also at an increased risk of osteoporosis, which causes our bones to become weak and brittle. Vitamin and mineral supplementation can help prevent and treat osteoporosis, but did you know that strong muscles lead to strong bones? Strength training can also improve balance and coordination, which further reduces the risk of osteoporosis-related falls and fractures. Taking the time to build your muscles and improve your bone health will keep you mobile and active, which will have positive benefits on your long-term physical and mental well-being, allowing you to maintain a healthy body weight as you age.
5. IMPROVES SLEEP QUALITY
Quality sleep is an essential part of your overall health, both physically and mentally. Ongoing sleep deprivation can lead to issues such as heart disease, kidney disease, high blood sugar, anxiety, diabetes, stroke, as well as weight gain and increased body fat. Cardiovascular exercise is often touted as an easy way to improve sleep quality, but some research suggests that strength training is even more beneficial because it creates a molecule called adenosine, which causes drowsiness.
How to Get Started with Strength Training for Weight Loss1. INVEST IN A PAIR OF ADJUSTABLE DUMBBELLS
Before you get started with strength training for weight loss at home, you’ll need a set of dumbbells. As you begin experimenting with different workouts, you will notice that you need different weights for different types of exercises. While you may only be able to use 5 lb weights when working your biceps, you will probably be able to handle a heavier weight when working your chest and back. Adjustable dumbbells are a great investment as they ensure you have a variety of different weights at your disposal, but they stack together for easy storage, taking up less room than traditional dumbbells.