We used to think that to shrink our fat cells we needed a
brisk walk, run or cycle to burn up the excess calories. But the thinking has
shifted. Working with weights may be an even better option for getting rid of
Cardiovascular exercise will always be essential part of
getting and staying fit. Amongst other benefits it strengthens your heart and
reduces your blood pressure.
Our muscles need attention too. Including two sessions of
resistance or strength training per week will increase muscle mass and strength
and improve bone density. Evidence indicates that weight training can help us
avoid an early death, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity, and reduce
our risk of cognitive decline and injury. It can also help with weight and fat
What is resistance exercise?
Resistance training is when you make your muscles work
against a weight or force. It involves using weight machines, exercise bands,
hand-held weights or your own body weight (such as push-ups, sit-ups or
planking) to provide your muscles with enough resistance that they can grow and
The link between muscles and fat
Resistance training increases the size and tone of your
muscles. This doesn’t just look good, it also helps you control your weight in
the long term. That’s because muscle size is important in determining your
resting metabolic rate (RMR), which is how many calories your body needs to function
at rest. Studies show that weight training is more effective than aerobic
exercise at increasing RMR.
Other studies have found weight workouts increased energy
expenditure and fat burning for at least 24 hours afterwards. Even people who
occasionally lift weights are far less likely to become obese that those who
In a process called mechanical loading, muscles get stressed
through lifting, pushing, or pulling. In response to this, cells in the muscles
release a substance that sends instructions to fat cells, prompting them to
start the fat-burning process, explained study co-author Dr John McCarthy,
associate professor of physiology at the University of Kentucky College of
“We think this adds a new dimension to the understanding of
how skeletal muscle communicates with other tissues,” said Dr McCarthy. The
results remind us, he said, that muscle mass is vitally important for metabolic
Resistance training for beginners
- Warm up first. Do some light aerobic exercise such as walking,
cycling or rowing for about five minutes.
- Use proper technique to avoid injuries. You can learn this
from a registered exercise professional. Many gyms offer experienced personal
trainers, or your could see a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist.
- Start slowly. New to weights? Then you may be able to lift
only a few kilograms. As your body gets more used to the exercises you can
start to progress. Once you can easily do 12 repetitions with a particular
weight, gradually increase the weight.
- Use your breath. Breathe out when you are lifting or
pushing; breathe in as you slowly release the load or weight. Never hold your
breath while straining.
- Be sensible. Don’t be so eager to see results that you risk
injury by exercising too long or choosing too heavy a weight.
- Rest. Rest muscles for at least 48 hours between strength
training sessions. If you have been sick, don’t return to training until one or
two days after you have recovered.