Lift weights to lose weight? When it comes to strength training and weight loss, we often think about changing our body shape in two stages: We believe we need to do cardio training first to lose weight and—only once we’re at our goal weight—then we should “tone up” by lifting weights. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with this idea, you can get more bang for your buck by doing both at once!
That’s why you’ll see plenty of strength training in our Walk STRONG System (plus cardio, flexibility, brain fitness and more). Research shows that a combination of training, including resistance training, offers better, faster results during your weight loss journey, along with several other additional benefits.
Here are seven reasons you shouldn’t wait to start lifting weights:
1. Muscle burns more calories
Strength training builds muscle, and muscle burns more calories than fat. Sure, you burn more calories during a cardio workout than while lifting weights. But afterward is a different story. In one study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, in the 24 hours following an hour-long strength-training session, women burned 100 more calories than those who didn’t lift.
2. Muscle is dense
Yes, a pound is a pound, whether that’s a pound of muscle or fat. But lean muscle is actually more dense than fat, so it takes up less room. If you lift weights and build muscle, even if the scale doesn’t budge, you may find you need to wear a smaller size.
3. You protect your bones
Strength training does more than build muscle. It also strengthens your bones, which may help protect against osteoporosis. In a study published in October, overweight and obese older adults on a diet were split into two groups. One did 3 sets of 10 reps of eight weight training exercises three days a week, while the other walked for 30 minutes on a treadmill four days a week. After five months, the bone mineral density of the hips and femurs of the walkers was lower, but it didn’t change for the group that lifted weights.
4. You preserve much-needed muscle
After about age 30, you naturally start to lose muscle mass, making it even more important to strength train to both preserve what you have and build new muscle. Plus, when you only do cardio, you may lose muscle in addition to fat, which clearly isn’t the goal. A recent study by Wake Forest University researchers found that older adults who combined a diet with walking lost about 16 pounds in 18 months, while those who combined the diet with weight-machine workouts lost about 17 pounds. However, the walkers lost about four pounds of muscle—twice as much as the strength trainers lost. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t walk, because cardio exercise is good for your heart, lungs, and bones, among other things. But it’s best to combine walking and strength training, which is one of our top recommendations in our weight loss programs.
5. It may help you lose belly fat
Studies suggest that weight training may help shrink your stomach. In a study published in the journal Obesity in 2016, researchers looked at the physical activity and waist circumference of 10,500 men. They found that doing 20 minutes of weight training daily in place of any other activity during that time had the strongest inverse association with waist circumference. So rather than sitting on the couch watching TV, do a workout video!
6. Lifting weights may boost confidence
Research suggests that women who weight train also gain confidence. There’s just something about lifting weights that makes you hold your head a little higher. When researchers had 14- to 18-year-olds do either aerobic training, resistance training, both, or no exercise for four weeks, only those who lifted weights reported more self-esteem at the end of the program. It seems that the act of simply feeling stronger made them also feel more confident.
7. It may head off injuries
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, resistance training may reduce the risk of injuries or reduce the severity of injuries. Researchers believe the effects weight training has on bones, muscles, and connective tissues may be to credit for this benefit. And of course, avoiding injuries means you can be active—with your workouts and your everyday life—so you stay healthier overall. According to an analysis of 25 studies published in 2013 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, training with weights may reduce sports injuries to less than one-third and overuse injuries to almost half their normal rates.
Ready to experience these benefits for yourself and jump-start your fitness goals? Join us for a program! Click here to learn more about our Walk STRONG System!
This content is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Be sure to consult with your physician or other health care provider with questions about your fitness goals.