Saturday, January 3, 2015

Make Strength Training the Foundation of Your Fitness Program

It's the first of the year and I already see my gym flooded with people eager to get healthy and fit for the New Year.  Most of the new comers spend most of their time on the cardio equipment, then they spend a few minutes lifting weights, and then they go home.

While cardio is a very important component of your fitness program, it shouldn't be where you spend the majority of your time in the gym.  I recommend you build your fitness program around strength training, also known as weight lifting and here's why:

Strength Training builds and helps to maintain your muscle mass.  Muscle tissue is always active and thus burns calories even when you are at rest.  Thus, by building and maintaining your muscle mass you  increase your resting metabolism, which means you burn more calories even while you are sleeping.

Muscle is key to long-term weight loss and body fat reduction.  As a personal trainer I often hear statements like this "ever since I tuned 40 I can't seem to lose weight and I've developed these areas of fat that I can't get rid of either."  Muscle loss is the primary reason for this scenario.  Beginning as early as your 30s you start to naturally lose muscle mass, and this process accelerates with age if you don't do anything to stop or slow it down.  As I previously mentioned, muscle is that active part of your body that burns calories even when you are resting.  Thus, as you lose your muscle mass your metabolism decreases, and consequently your calorie burning capacity also decreases.  Additionally, body fat is the fuel of choice for your muscles while you are at rest, and also for low intensity activities such as casual walking, cleaning house, and yard work.

Strength training increases your bone strength and makes your joints stronger.  Regular strength training has been proven to decrease the risk of developing osteoporosis, and also to make the activities of daily life easier to perform.

Strength training helps reduce blood sugar, and thus, reduces the risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.  Strength training plays a particular role to in reducing blood sugar and improving insulin sensitivity because when you lift weights the main fuel used is that stored as muscle glucose. Building extra muscle also provides a larger storage area for glucose, so the combination of these two factors -- increased muscle and regular emptying of these muscle stores -- improves the body's glucose processing, a factor crucial in preventing and managing type 2 diabetes.

Hopefully you can see why I think strength training should be the foundation of your fitness program.  If you are new to weight lifting, I suggest you find a nationally certified fitness professional to help you develop a strength training program, and to teach you the proper form and lifting techniques.