To Lose Weight, Lift Weights

By Temma Ehrenfeld  @temmaehrenfeld
January 04, 2017

Combine aerobics and strength training for best results.  

When you decide to lose weight, or keep it off, don’t skip the exercise. 

You’ll hear people say exercise doesn’t help a weight program. Many find, for instance, that they eat more before or after workouts, and the exercise doesn’t do enough to overcome the extra food. It’s also common to skip strength training, and favor aerobics. Women especially may choose yoga or a dance class over barbells. Biceps are for guys, right? 

Wrong, as we all learned from Michelle Obama’s handsome arms. The best strategy is to keep up the aerobics and also include strength training in your week. A 2012 Australian study analyzing the results of a 12-week training program on a group of overweight and obese adults, mainly women, found that “moderate intensity” aerobics combined with weight training, for at least 30 minutes 5 days a week, produced more weight and fat loss and cardio fitness than either alone. 


YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: Our Strength Training Section


When you eat less, your metabolism famously slows down, which is why it’s so hard to maintain weight loss. Your body adjusts, with the goal of getting you back to your old weight. People hope that exercise will counter that effect by boosting metabolism, but the evidence for that has been mixed. However, a persuasive 2011 study published in the Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise concluded that it does.

Researchers convinced 10 men, ages 22 to 33, to participate in what sounds like a very unpleasant experiment. To measure their resting metabolic rate, the men had to spend 24 hours in a metabolic chamber, a small room that measures the calories you burn while inside. They sat perfectly still in a chair except to eat meals sent in through an airlock and a series of hourly two-minute stretches, before bedtime at 10:30 p.m. They left early the next morning, having burned 2,400 calories, on average, on this entirely sedentary day.

Two days later, they returned to the chamber and repeated the experiment, except that at 11 a.m., they rode a stationary bicycle quickly for 45 minutes. That exercise burned 420 calories. Over the next 14 hours, the participants burned an extra 190 calories, on average. Altogether, the 45-minute workout increased their calorie burn by 37 percent.

Looking further out, that metabolism boost may fade. The results may also be different for women, who typically have a harder time losing weight than men do. In a study of pre-menopausal women, 40 minutes of aerobic minutes at 80 percent of your maximum heart rate boosted metabolism up to 19 hours later — but then fell back down. All of the women in this study lost more than 26 pounds. Those who didn’t exercise or did only aerobics ended up with a slower metabolism a month after the weight loss, as most people do. But women who did strength training three times a week — including squats, sit-ups, and the like — maintained their pre-dieting metabolism rate and also had kept off more fat. 

Weight-training is also good for overweight youngsters. A 2016 overview of 34 high-quality studies with children and teens concluded that their body mass index dropped 28.8 percent, on average, when they did aerobic exercise alone, and 31.5 percent when they also did strength training.

Getting started, as with most challenges, may require a strategy. Consider setting up as many sessions with a trainer as you need to learn proper form. You’ll love lifting weights once you experience the high. Yes, there’s a lifter’s high, just like runner’s high. Try out the thumping music. Find a gym that feels welcoming and exciting or a pleasant spot in your home. Sunshine is better than a dark, cramped basement. Don’t be afraid to grunt, wince, and breathe loudly. Experiment and don’t let it get stale. 

The right trainer will keep you motivated and help you progress without making you feel bullied. Do your part and show up on time, ready to work, not sleep-deprived. Eventually you’ll need to provide your own encouragement. Imagine yourself looking buff or any other visual fantasy that motivates you. You can even say aloud, “You can do it!,” “Burn baby burn!”  


YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: Our Aerobic Exercise Section


April 08, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN