As a personal trainer I’m always curious to see what people do for their exercise programs. Most often I see people come into the gym and head straight to the treadmill, or some other piece of cardio equipment for 30 to 45 minutes. Then they breeze through the strength training equipment in about 10 to 15 minutes, doing lots of repetitions with very light resistance. And after a period of time doing this type of routine they eventually come to me questioning why they seem to be getting fatter while exercising more and eating less. To which I reply, “you are doing too much cardio and not enough strength training”.
Cardiovascular exercise is an important component of any fitness program but it should not be the main focus, especially as you get older. Building and maintaining your strength and muscle mass should be the foundation of your exercise routine as you age, and strength training is proven to be the best way to accomplish this, and here’s why.
Muscle is the active part of your body that burns the most calories during exercise, however it’s little know that muscle also burns calories while your body is at rest through a process called protein synthesis which is the building and repairing of muscle cells. Protein synthesis is a very energy intensive process and it’s fuel of choice is body fat. Consequently, the more muscle mass you have the more calories you burn even at rest. It’s estimated that each pound of muscle requires approximately 6 calories per day just to exist. That’s the good news.
The bad new is muscle wasting is a natural part of the aging process and it can begin in your 30s and it accelerates over time if nothing is done to abate it. You can lose 1 to 1 and ½ pounds of muscle per year in your 40s and 50s and even more in your 60s and beyond. Thus, from the age of 40 to 60 you can lose nearly 30 pounds of muscle mass which equates to an approximate 66,000 calorie deficit per year and consequently almost 20 lbs of fat weight gain.
Unfortunately, cardiovascular exercise does very little in the way of building and maintaining your muscle, in fact too much cardio has the effect of further accelerating muscle loss. However, strength training has been proven time and again to be the most effective way to combat and even reverse muscle loss. Simply put, strength training is form of exercise that causes a load of more than your body weight to be resisted, and your body responds by building more muscle to accommodate the increased resistance.
A good strength training program should be performed 2 to 3 time each week. It can be done in 30 to 40 minutes in which you do 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions with a resistance that is hard to complete with proper form. I suggest you find a qualified health and fitness professional to custom design a strength training program for you.