When most people begin to exercise as part of their medical weight loss program, they tend to focus on cardiovascular activity first. After all, they reason, that’s what gets their heart rate up and burns calories. But what many don’t realize is that strength training can be just as important as cardio for numerous reasons, including the fact that increasing the percentage of muscle in your body can help increase metabolism.
Unfortunately, as we age we tend to lose muscle mass – about half a pound of muscle a year on average after age 25. But it’s never too late to start strength training. A 2009 study published inThe American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people in their late 60s who performed strength training three times a week for 20 weeks helped to maintain their muscle mass. Strength training can also help to maintain bone mass, which can prevent the development of osteoporosis.
If you’re following a medical weight loss program, your physician will perform a body composition analysis to tell you what percentage of your body is composed of muscle, fat, and water. This will help you determine what type of exercise you should do to increase your muscle percentage and lower your fat percentage if needed.
3 Tips for Getting Started with Weights
- Begin with light weights and lots of repetitions. You don’t want to risk injury by attempting to lift heavy weights right off the bat. Instead, try 2- to 3-pound weights in sets of 14 to 20 repetitions.
- Consult with a personal trainer or exercise instructor. If you’ve never lifted weights before, you want to make sure you’re doing it the right way. Make sure your trainer or a fitness expert monitors you the first time you try any new weightlifting activity to help correct your form and prevent injury.
- Alternate weights and aerobic activity. Lifting weights every day is not a good idea; you need to give your muscles time to rest and recuperate between sessions. (Not that you have time to do this every day, anyway!) Instead, work up to strength training two or three times a week, with at least a day of rest in between, to see maximum benefits.
Weight Machines vs. Free Weights?
Should you use weight machines or free weights for the best health and weight loss benefits? Either one is fine and, in fact, you may want to alternate between the two for variety. If you’re a true beginner, you may feel more comfortable starting with weight machines since they’re designed to target specific muscle groups. However, check with a personal trainer or gym employee to make sure you’re using the machines correctly, as injury can still occur with improper use.
If you’re lifting weights at home, it’s less expensive and easier to purchase free weights that you can use anywhere. Buy a variety of weights so you can work up to heavier ones once you feel comfortable with the lighter weights.
No matter which types of weights you use, a regular strength training program can complement a healthy, low-calorie diet to help you lose weight while maintaining muscle mass – and to keep off the weight for good.
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