When it comes to weight loss, cardio is not the only answer. When it comes to fitness, cardio is not the only answer. When it comes to longer and better living, total fitness is a key player. Total fitness consists mostly of; cardio, mobility (strength and flexibility), and neuromuscular effectiveness (balance and coordination).
In the world of health and fitness, it is common to “overdo” one element and “underwork” another. When it comes to weight loss, too commonly do people try to exercise off what they eat through excess cardio training. In a world where we are taught that weight management is really a balance sheet of caloric input vs. caloric output, cardio is thought to be the ultimate “output”. When it comes to working out, cardio exercise does typically burn the most calories in the shortest amount of time so, logically, it would seem to make sense to focus only doing more of that – right?
Let’s look at things a little bit differently. A 150-pound athletic male doing burpees non-stop for 1 hour, will burn an average of 550 calories. For those of you who don’t know what a burpee is, they are essentially a push-up combined with a squat-jump all in one movement. Now imagine doing that non-stop for 1 hour and burning 550 calories. How long does it take to eat 550 calories? How many calories are in that desert for dinner tonight? It could possibly take less than 10 seconds to consume 550 calories – especially in our modern day food environment. And when we inevitably do, we might be left feeling angry towards ourselves because we ruined all that hard work we did earlier. This is a major contributing factor to an unhealthy relationship with exercise that can often lead to over-exercising, undereating and ending up physically and metabolically damaged.
Before I continue, I want to be clear about something, cardio training is not evil. Cardio training has a lot of major health benefits. For instance, it can reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It can help fight against depression and anxiety. It can help with overall stamina and physical productivity and can be a great compliment to a weight management program when used wisely. However, it is not the only element of fitness and it can be taken overboard – especially in the context of weight loss.
Thinking of your weight management as your balance sheet, resistance training is like your 401K for weight loss. It takes a little bit longer to realize its benefits, but when consistent contributions are made over the long haul, its return is priceless. Physical benefits are increased bones strength (even for those with osteopenia and osteoporosis), increased connective tissue durability, increased muscular and joint strength, improved neuromuscular connections and so much more. Some metabolic benefits are increased resting metabolism (muscle is more calorically expensive than fat), increased insulin sensitivity (can help fight against type 2 diabetes) and overall improved hormone function.
Again, these benefits are not as readily noticeable as the benefits that cardio brings. For instance, it takes 8 – 12 weeks before muscle tissue physically starts changing. It takes about 8 – 12 months for connective tissue to physically start changing. It takes about 2 years before bone density is noticeably stronger. However, when you get off the treadmill from time to time and add resistance training to your routine, your future self will be happy you did because your future self could possibly even feel like a younger self.
If you need help putting together a strength training routine, check out our exercise plans. If you are looking for a trainer at home to get you started, look for one of these three certified professionals to get you started; ACSM, NSCA, ACE. Yoga, Pilates, and aquatic exercise can also make for a great strength modality.