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Lift Your Way to Weight Loss
Posted: 08-01-2007 6:10 pm by Laura Seuferling, Valley Medical Center
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If you have ever been concerned about your weight or counted calories, you know that your metabolism has an important part in how you will lose weight and keep it off. Your resting metabolic rate (RMR) is the rate at which your body uses fuel, or burns calories when you are at rest just to maintain the regular functions of your body. Most people use 60-75% of their calories at their RMR and can burn more calories if they participate in exercise or other physical activities. Alternatively, as is the case with more and more Americans, the excess calories are stored as fat due to a lack of activity.

Your RMR is affected by other factors, too. Muscle tissue, or lean mass, is where the bulk of calories are burned in your body and as our bodies start to age (at mid 20’s) we lose about 1/2-3/4 pound of lean mass every year. As a result, our bodies need fewer calories due to a decrease in our RMR and this results in the gradual weight gain commonly associated with aging. For example, if you burn 1,900 calories a day at age 30, you could be using only 1,670 by age 70. That isn’t counting for the fact that most people are far less active at age 70 than at 30, and will need even fewer calories for that reason.

Another reason why people can lose lean mass is a diet that focuses solely on caloric reduction without including some type of exercise. You can lose weight with these types of diets, but studies have found that 25% of the weight lost may be muscle. This can result in a lowered metabolism, making it even more difficult to lose additional weight and prevent gain.

The key to successful long-term weight loss is to maintain or increase your RMR by increasing your lean mass. This is most effectively achieved by lifting weights, or resistance training. Traditionally, exercise programs for weight loss have focused on cardiovascular exercise such as walking, jogging, swimming, aerobics, etc. This type of activity is an effective way to burn calories, but it will not raise your metabolism on a long-term basis. In fact the “afterburn” effect of a typical workout usually only lasts 30 minutes to 2 hours. Aerobic exercise also does not maintain or significantly increase the lean mass, so even regularly active people will have the age-associated reduction in metabolism. Therefore, to burn more calories 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you should add a weight-lifting program to your cardiovascular regimen.

What type of weight-lifting program should you follow?

If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, a cardiac condition, or orthopedic (muscle/joint) problems, be sure to check with your doctor before starting a weight-lifting program. Next, you should meet with a qualified fitness instructor to discuss your physical limitations, goals, and experience. He or she should also take you through the weight-lifting routine you will follow for your workout.

A weight lifting program to help increase your metabolism should focus on muscle hypertrophy—meaning an increase in muscles size. For those of you concerned about developing big muscles, most women don’t have enough testosterone to get very bulky unless they do a hard-core regimen of lifting 1-2 hours every day. Your program should include exercises for all of the major muscle groups: chest, back, shoulders, arms, and legs. Ideally, you should lift 3 days a week, but 2 days will still bring results. You should schedule at least 48 hours between weight-lifting sessions.

To start, you should lift a weight, or perform the resistance exercise 8-12 times. You will know if you are lifting the right amount of weight if during those 8-12 lifts, the muscles you’re working become completely fatigued and you are unable to do more than 12 lifts total. You should increase the weight approximately 5-10% once you can do more than 12 repetitions to optimize your lean mass as well as your strength gains. An instructor will help you to decide if and when you should perform more than one set of 8-12 repetitions.

It's up to you to decide if weight lifting will work best for you at home with your own equipment or at a fitness center. Although some people think that having some dumbbells at home will be sufficient, most find that they soon are able to do more than 12 repetitions and are not able to progress in their program unless they go out and buy more dumbbells. A facility maybe a less expensive option in the long run and can provide a wider range of equipment than most home gyms. In addition, having instructors readily available will improve your changes of having the most effective program.

If you’re having difficulty losing weight or just want to prevent weight gain, weight-lifting may be the improved strength, better bone density to prevent osteoporosis, greater ease with your daily activities, and prevention of injuries.

Get lifting today!

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