Strength training can help whip your body into shape; however, it won't perform miracles. The exercise tones muscles, but it doesn't remove fat from the target region, nor will it shrink or firm your skin. There are plenty of ways to get your strength training in, including lifting weights, hitting the yoga studio and performing body-weight moves such as squats and pushups.
Although strength training doesn't directly affect fat stores, it does use calories -- and the key to weight loss is burning more calories than you eat. Lifting weights, a 155-pound woman burns about 110 calories in 30 minutes. Performing calisthenics, or body-weight exercises, the same woman burns about 165 calories. Not too shabby, but it takes 3,500 calories to lose a pound of fat -- so strength training is just one tool in your weight-loss toolbox, but not a complete solution. Pair your exercise routine with a reduced-calorie diet -- 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day for women -- to shed weight faster.
Strength training has one more fat-burning trick up its sleeve: The activity changes your body composition, increasing lean muscle mass. Your metabolism is directly tied to the amount of lean tissue in your body because muscle maintenance requires more energy than fat maintenance. Thus, regular strength training will boost your metabolism slightly over the long haul, making it easier to lose weight and keep it off.
If you're after tighter skin, exercise is not the answer. Skin slowly loses elasticity with age, and no physical activity will turn back the clock. Sun exposure is the culprit for most skin damage, so prevent loss of firmness by slathering on sunscreen every time you leave the house -- even if it's cold or cloudy. Once the damage has been done, however, it's difficult to revert back to tighter skin. Although scores of "firming" creams line the walls of retail stores, the FDA doesn't require any proof of such claims. Ultimately, the dermatologist is your best bet for skin woes.
Strength training helps keep you healthy, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least two weekly sessions, working all major muscle groups. Allow at least a full day between strength-training workouts for muscle recovery. You also need regular aerobic exercise for optimal cardiovascular health, so add walking, running, swimming or using the elliptical trainer to your workout program. You can safely perform aerobic exercise most days of the week without a recovery period. If you're currently inactive or have a health condition, consult a doctor before starting a new exercise program.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity do Adults Need?
- ExRx.net: Spot Reduction Myth
- Harvard Health Publications: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- University of Minnesota Medical Center: Weight Loss Recommendations
- American College of Sports Medicine: Metabolism is Modifiable with the Right Lifestyle Changes
- MedlinePlus: Aging Changes in Skin
- Harvard Health Publications: Do Skin Creams Deliver?
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.