Published: June 15, 2011
Updated: June 15, 2011
By Brian Housle
So, you’ve set goals for weight loss. Or maybe you’ve reached a point where you are working to maintain your weight.
To help you achieve your goals, it’s important to do aerobic activity -- ideally an hour per day, five or six days per week -- while incorporating strength training.
The research in favor of strength training becomes clearer every day. The American College of Sports Medicine, teaming with family physicians, has set a “prescription” of eight to 10 strength exercises, two times per week.
The Centers for Disease Control extols the benefits of resistance exercise, particularly as you grow older. Science tells us that comorbidities like arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, back pain, and depression are significantly reduced through the effects of regular strength training.
Studies have shown that older adults age 50+ who engage in strength training achieve a 43 percent reduction in pain, along with increases in strength and performance.
Balance is improved through resistance exercise, and a routine of strength training two to three times per week has been shown to lower the risk of falls by 40 percent.
For post-menopausal women, bone mass decreases 1 to 2 percent per year, and weight training will improve bone density enough to counter that loss. Glucose control, mood, and sleep are all improved through strength training.
Even your heart benefits from resistance exercise, since it leads to leaner body composition -- and therefore a decrease in heart disease, as well as increased aerobic capacity.
As we age, our bodies are less able to create new muscle tissue. Sarcopenia is age-related loss of muscle, and with it comes a reduction in the ability to do functional everyday activities.
When you lose weight, you inevitably lose muscle mass as well as fat. By doing strength training exercises, you can reduce the amount of lean muscle tissue that you lose during weight loss.
For those maintaining a stable weight, strength training reduces the age-associated loss of muscle tissue. In addition, strength exercise programs can be a significant help in maintaining our metabolic rate (which ordinarily declines with age and with weight loss).
Studies show that if resistance is gradually increased, lean muscle mass will increase more than if resistance remains the same.
In other words, if you continue to lift with the same amount of weight, you will not increase mass as much as if you continually increase the weight or resistance. Furthermore, research shows that reaching failure/fatigue at sets of 12-15 will not generate increased lean body mass as efficiently as sets where fatigue occurs within eight to 10 repetitions.
So, when you get to a point where you’re able to do more than 10 repetitions without taking a break, it’s time to increase the weight or resistance until you can only do eight to 10 reps.
Simply by increasing the resistance as you get stronger, you could hold on to up to 5 percent more of your lean body mass over the course of a decade.
As with any physical activity plan, you should consult your physician before starting.
Brian Housle, MS, MEd, is an exercise physiologist with Duke Diet & Fitness Center.