An interesting phenomenon occurs at many gyms -- one that you'll rarely find in any other co-ed environment. It occurs when a clear division takes place between men and women. Rows of elliptical machines, steppers, exercise bikes and treadmills are filled with women, while the areas with resistance-training equipment are dominated by men. A few brave women will cross over to the other side to do some weight training, but for the most part, they tend to stay firmly planted on their cardio machines. Resistance training is absent from the routines of many seeking to burn fat and drop pounds -- but there may be negative consequences for neglecting the weights. Talk with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.
The huge misconception that keeps people away from resistance training is the belief that performing cardio is the most effective way to lose weight. While there are certainly many benefits to cardio, including fat burning and weight loss, weight training is also a very valuable weapon in the war against fat. Other people may perform only cardio because they are afraid that weight training will make them bulky or masculine. If you're a woman, you don't have the hormones in your body for this to happen -- and if you're a man, you would have to perform an intense routine specifically designed to add massive muscles. Huge, bulging biceps come from incessant, deliberate training.
Benefits of Resistance Training
Resistance training offers a long list of benefits, including strengthened bones, sharpened focus, increased stamina, reduced risk of joint injuries and stress management. While these are fabulous, the weight-loss benefits are what most people are really interested in. As you gain muscle, your metabolism increases. Muscles burn more calories at rest than fat, so the stronger and leaner you become, the easier it will be to lose more weight or maintain your loss. A cardiovascular workout will usually burn more calories than a strength-training workout; however, your metabolism will stay elevated longer after you've completed a strength-training routine. Plus, you'll be creating a calorie-burning furnace that will keep your metabolism consistently elevated.
Is Cardio-Only Bad?
It's not bad to perform only cardio, simply because some exercise is better than none. But if you only do cardio, you forfeit the benefits of resistance training. To keep your cardio program safe, the American Council on Exercise recommends performing a warm-up, increasing intensity slowly and allowing your body to cool down afterward.
A Happy Medium
The best program for increased health and optimal body composition is one that includes both cardio and resistance training. If the thought of staying at the gym that long is daunting, try breaking it up by performing your cardio in the morning and strength training at night. Or, just split up the time you're currently using for cardio: Instead of 60 minutes on the treadmill, just do 30 and add 30 minutes of resistance training.
- Preventative Medicine; Potential Health-Related Benefits of Resistance Training; RA Winett and RN Carpinelli
Jessica Bell has been working in the health and fitness industry since 2002. She has served as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor. Bell holds an M.A. in communications and a B.A. in English.