Cardio is the go-to exercise for burning calories in hopes of losing weight, but you might be doing yourself a disservice if you’re not including resistance training or strength exercises in your workout routine.
Estimates are that only 20-30 percent of adults regularly participate in resistance exercise, and those rates decrease as people age (1). However, there are several other reasons why adding resistance training is key for both weight loss and healthy aging.
1. Maintain Muscle Mass
Sedentary adults experience a 3-8 percent loss in muscle mass per decade after age 30 (2). During a low-calorie diet for weight loss, some of that weight loss may be attributed to a reduction in lean muscle mass. Strength training helps maintain and even build muscle mass during weight loss.
2. Burn More Calories
Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, meaning it will burn more calories at rest, increasing your metabolism. Typically, with weight loss, there is a decrease in calories the body uses as it adapts to a lower weight. As muscle mass increases, metabolism also increases, burning more calories through the day (3).
3. Preserve Balance and Flexibility
Research in seniors shows that when resistance exercise is added to a workout routine, balance and flexibility are maintained. Balance is key to preventing falls and subsequent injuries, particularly in older populations. Joint flexibility helps seniors sustain range of motion so they can complete daily activities and have good quality of life (4).
4. Improve Muscle Strength
Muscle protein synthesis (MPS) is the process by which your muscles build and rebuild in response to damage from exercise. Increased rates of MPS are associated with improved muscle strength. Resistance exercise increases MPS, particularly when paired with protein ingestion.
5. Boost Your Mood
Working out in any capacity can help increase endorphins, which elevate mood. Studies show that acute exercise increases feelings of vigor. Additionally, researchers have shown that low to moderate resistance exercise increases mood and general quality of life (5,6).
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends strength training on two nonconsecutive days each week. To get started, choose light-intensity exercises. Perform two to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions of movements that work various muscle groups.
Legal Disclaimer: You should consult your physician or other healthcare professional before starting this or any other fitness program to determine if it is right for you. Do not start this fitness program if your physician or healthcare provider advises against it. If you experience faintness, dizziness, pain, or shortness of breath at any time while exercising, you should stop immediately and seek appropriate medical care, if needed.
- Peterson MD and Gordon PM. Resistance exercise for the aging adult: clinical implications and prescription guidelines. Am J Med. 2011; 124: 194-198.
- Westcott WL. Resistance training is medicine: effects of strength training on health. Curr Sport Med Rep. 2012 Jul/Aug; 11(4): 209.
- Cava E, Yeat NC, and Mittendorfer B. Preserving healthy muscle during weight loss. Adv Nutr. 2017; 8: 511-19.
- Schlicht J, Camaione DN, and Owen SV. Effect of intense strength training on standing balance, walking speed, and sit-to-stand performance in older adults. J Geront Ser A. 2001 May; 56(5): M281.
- Strickland JC and Smith MA. The anxiolytic effects of resistance exercise. Front Psychol. 2014 Jul; 5: 753.
- Fritz KM and O’Connor PJ. Acute exercise improves mood and motivation in young men with ADHD symptoms. Med Sci Sport Med. 2016 Jun; 48(6): 1153.