Get More From Weights Than Aerobics

The number one reason that people exercise is to lose weight, and aerobic activity is crucial for that… Right?

Sure, you’ll lose weight, but at what expense? If you do an excessive amount of aerobic work, rest assured that you’ll catabolize muscle tissue, and the less muscle you have, the lower your metabolic rate will be, not to mention the lower your strength will be as well.

Of course, a frequent amount of slow, steady-state aerobic work will also decrease body fat, but after a period of time, the opposite effect may occur. That’s right, your body may actually store fat as a result of all that aerobic activity.

You see, the human body is a highly adaptable organism. It prefers fat for fuel at lower intensities, so when you constantly perform low-intensity aerobic work (aka “cardio”), your body responds in this manner: “Okay, if you want to burn more fat for fuel constantly performing this activity, then I will store more fat to make you more efficient at the activity you are trying to perform!”

During weight training, you break down muscle (specifically, structural and contractile protein), so your body adapts by building it back up even bigger and stronger than before to make you more efficient at that activity. The end result is an anabolic (muscle building) effect, not a catabolic (muscle wasting) effect as experienced during frequent aerobic training.

Best Form of Exercise for Cardiac Health

The aerobic movement was founded by Dr. Kenneth Cooper almost half a century ago, and it’s still going strong today. We’re told that aerobics are imperative for cardiac health. Well, tell that to Jim Fixx, Brian Maxwell, and Ed Burke. These endurance athletes had extremely high VO2 max levels (which is a measure of aerobic fitness), yet all three died from heart attacks.

Believe it or not, weight training has a profound effect on the cardiovascular system. In fact, weight training may be a safer and more effective approach than aerobics for cardiac rehab patients (see pages 178-179 of The Elite Trainer).

Spend Your Training Time Wisely

We know that exercise is important for good health. Most people can afford three hours a week for exercise. It’s a small price to pay for their health – only 1.8% of the week – but people do not want to waste their time. They want the greatest value for their training buck, and that’s why I’m a big fan of weight training.

Yoga and stretching improve flexibility. Aerobics improve cardiovascular endurance. Pilates improves core strength. Well, weight training will do all of the above and much more. That’s the activity you should encourage your clients to perform on a regular basis regardless of their age or gender.

Quite frankly, I believe that weight training is even more important for females than it is for males. The famous Framingham Heart Study found that by the age of 65, the average woman could not lift a ten-pound weight. Unfortunately, the notion that women are not supposed to lift weights still seems to exist!

And recent studies have shown that strength is more important than endurance to improve functional capacity in aging adults. One problem that plagues many elders (particularly females) is osteoporosis. You hear of seniors falling and breaking bones. They can’t even get up to call for help. Well, the sad reality is that their bones break first, and then they fall! Weight-bearing exercise is crucial; walking is not sufficient. Check out the approach I take with my eldest client to improve her bone health.

Bottom Line: Many forms of exercise can help you reach your destination, but weight training will get you there with time to spare.

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