Women have been doing cardio for decades. Running, elliptical, aerobic class and Zumba are among the many different cardio routines that are still popular today. Many women believe the only way to lose weight and burn calories is to do cardiovascular exercises.
It’s why cardio machines are packed at the gym. And why aerobic classes are always full. It’s why women jog 4-5 days per week.
Today, I’d like to share with you why cardio is NOT the best approach to fat loss. In fact, it might be causing you to gain weight. Here’s a common theme with women (especially over 40) that do cardio. Initially, they lose weight and feel great. Weeks into their cardio though, something happens. Their fat loss comes to a screeching halt. They start to get that “skinny fat” look where you can’t get rid of belly fat.
For optimal health, longevity, and a lean body, you want to switch from cardio to weight training. Don’t worry; you will NOT get bulky from doing strength training. That’s a myth that has no merit. If you have been avoiding strength training, you’re missing out on one of the best fat-loss methods around. The more lean muscle you build, the more calories you burn.
It’s important to remember that the scale is not the most effective way to measure results. When you do strength training, you are gaining lean muscle, which will help your waistline look thinner and increase your metabolism. As you know, an increased metabolism means you’ll burn more belly fat, have more energy, and sleep better.
The best way to track your progress is through measurements (hips, waist, chest, thighs, etc.), body fat assessments and to pay attention to how your clothes feel.
What is strength training?
Strength training does not have to be lifting weights. In fact, one of the best strength-training methods is bodyweight exercises. You are still putting stimulus on your muscles when performing basic bodyweight exercises such as squats, pushups, and lunges. Even if you do resistance exercises using dumbbells, you can still do those anywhere. You don’t need a gym membership to experience the benefits of strength training.
Still skeptical? Let’s take a look 9 benefits you will discover using strength training. Some of these might be obvious. Some might be a bit shocking.
#1: Increased Muscle Mass – It’s no secret that muscle mass naturally declines with age, in both men and women, although women tend to be lose more because they do not train their muscles as they age. One overlooked benefit of increased muscle mass is that it makes you look thinner around the waistline. That’s always a great thing!
Not only does it help you look better, but it also allows you to experience a better quality of life. It gives you more strength for playing with your kids, picking things up, and all of the other daily activities that require strength.
#2: Increased Metabolism – One of the most difficult things to deal with over the age of 40 is a slow metabolism. There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to lose weight as easily as when you were in your 20s or 30s. It’s the biggest complaint of women over 40, according to a number of studies.
Unlike fat, muscle is metabolically active. When you build more muscle, you burn more calories. Not only do you burn more calories while you’re working out, but also after thanks to EPOC (excess post- exercise oxygen consumption). Unfortunately, you can’t experience this calorie afterburn by doing cardio. This only happens from resistance training.
#3: Reversal and slowing of Bone-Density Loss – Like metabolism, your bone density naturally declines with age. This is an issue for a number of reasons. Weak and fragile bones not only put you at a greater risk for bone fractures, they’ll also limit your mobility and impact your posture. Luckily, if you’ve not been doing weight training for years, once you start back you’ll quickly see improvements in bone mass and bone density.
#4: Better Quality Sleep – Another big complaint of women over 40 is difficulty going to sleep and getting quality sleep. Any form of exercise can be good for improving sleep patterns, but resistance training is particularly beneficial for women over the age of 40. A number of studies have shown that weight training improves hormonal balance, which significantly increases quality of sleep.
#5: Improved Body Image – There are a number of reasons people work out. But one of the main motivations to exercise is to look better. Resistance training makes you leaner, stronger, and more toned. Of course, once you start seeing physical differences your confidence and self-image are going to improve. By focusing less on the scale and more on increasing your strength and weights, you’ll be happier with your body image.
#6: More Energy – It sounds backwards, but doing resistance training can help you feel more energized throughout the day. The exercise will help release endorphins, improving your mood and energy levels. If you’ve ever done weight training, you have experienced the boost of energy and confidence as soon as you finish. You might be tired right after the workout, but soon after you feel amazing and ready to attack the day.
#7: Improved Overall Health – Studies have demonstrated the benefits of strength training for lower blood pressure, resting heart rate, insulin sensitivity, and triglycerides. These are all factors related to diabetes, heart attack, and obesity in women over the age of 40. By improving these markers through strength training you will greatly decrease your chance of these life-threatening conditions.
#8: Increased Sex Drive – Many women in their 40s complain about not having the same sex drive as when they were in their 20s and 30s. You know now that strength training improves sleep quality, energy levels, and self-confidence. It also increases testosterone production (yes, ladies, that’s a good thing!) and estrogen balance, which significantly boost sex drive.
#9: Reduced Risk of Cancer – Women in their 40s are at a greater risk for breast and ovarian cancers. While there is no clear research that resistance training reduces your risk of cancer, there is an interesting report worth noting: A 2011 study from National Analysts Worldwide showed general exercise lowers estrogen and progesterone levels in pre-menopausal women at high risk of breast cancer. That’s certainly an indicator that exercise can help reduce the risk of breast cancer for women in their 40s.
Strength training is a key component of health and well-being. Don’t get stuck in the cardio trap. It doesn’t work. With a well-balanced strength-training program and proper nutrition, you won’t have to use age as an excuse.