Cardiovascular exercise on machines such as treadmills and exercise bikes burns more calories than lifting weights, so is it just a waste of gym time to add strength training to your workout?
The short answer is no. Are you tired of sweating it out on the cross-trainer and only seeing the scales drop when you’ve one hand on the wall? You need more iron. Not in your diet - in your hands. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, a mere 21 percent of women strength train two or more times a week. When you skip the weight room, you lose out on the ultimate flab melter. Those two sessions a week can reduce overall body fat by about 3 percentage points in just 10 weeks, even if you don't cut a single calorie.
Aerobic exercise, such as walking, running, and swimming, has been proven to be an effective way to lose weight. However, recent guidelines have suggested that resistance training, which includes weight lifting to build and maintain muscle mass, may also help with weight loss by increasing a person's resting metabolic rate.
While cardiovascular exercise is key to burning fat and essential for weight loss, reveal researchers at Duke University, working muscles as well as your heart and lungs can improve your health and help you drop a clothes size faster. Suddenly, dumbbells sound like a smart idea.
Resistance training, or ‘weight training’ - a term which invokes images of sweaty men with bulging biceps - can help you achieve a leaner, more toned physique, without turning into The Hulk overnight. Just adding 15-20 minutes of resistance training to your cardio workout is enough to gain all the potential health benefits, including a firm, sculpted physique, faster (whilst healthy) weight loss, reduced bone deterioration, and improved bone mass, preventing osteoporosis. It has also been proven to have a positive affect on insulin resistance, blood pressure, body fat and gastrointestinal transit time; factors that are linked to illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
And here’s the cherry on top - incorporating weights into your workout has been found to increase metabolic rate, as muscle tissue is metabolically active. The more muscle you have the more calories you burn - even at rest, making losing and maintaining a healthy weight much easier. For every additional pound of muscle you gain, your body burns around 50 extra calories every day of the week, without even trying.
With Jessica Ennis' abs being voted as the most desirable in Britain in a January 2014 poll, the importance of weight-training has become more apparent, and necessary to achieve the body of our dreams. Fitness expert Bridget Hunt - qualified nutritionist and mind-set coach, otherwise known as the Six Pack Chick - says it is possible to achieve a washboard stomach without the Olympic efforts. She advises to start with body weight exercises - squats, press ups, tricep dips on a park bench, and opt for a high protein, low carb meal plan; still the easiest and best way to lose body fat and release that six pack.
Over the course of your sessions, use exercises that work all the muscle groups in 8-12 repetitions, and be sure to use a suitable weight so that the last rep really feels like hard work. Ask a fitness instructor or personal trainer to show you how to work out properly with a simple routine that you can continue unaided, and advice on avoiding weight training injuries. Don't overdo it and make sure that you leave a day or two to recover in between sessions. Go get pumped!
features writer & lifestyle blogger and avid shoe wearer.