Being in the fitness business, we get frustrated seeing fitness misconceptions all over the internet. The most common myth we see is spot-reducing fat (which isn’t really possible), but there are plenty of others too, mostly centered around weight loss. While we’d love to throw away everyone’s scales, we understand the importance of it to many. The facts around weight loss have become muddled by stigmas, stereotypes, and other misinformation. (Anyone ever try to “work off” that extra donut?) But here at Flow, if we’re going to discuss weight loss, we’re going to use actual science to break things down.
Before we start wading into the details, we need to clarify a few things about weight loss itself. Weight loss is lowering a number on a scale, however, it is not indicative of overall health or body shape/size. Most people don’t want weight loss, they want to improve their body image, health, energy and self-confidence. It’s important that we distinguish the difference when people say they want to lose weight, most want the later which this article will focus on.
Next, we need to become aware of our misconceptions around weight loss and throw them out. It’s easy to keep a stigma because it’s what you learned at an early age. For example, growing up, every time someone would cough or sneeze, people would break out the vitamin C and take more than the daily recommended amount. We now know this doesn’t actually help, but we still pour a fizzy orange drink when we think we are getting sick.
The same thing happens with cardio and weight loss. When people want to lose weight, they often try to do as much steady state cardio (e.g. running or biking) as possible. Cardio is absolutely proven to help lose weight, but it should always come second to diet, and is best when combined with other forms of exercise, especially strength training.
Cardio does burn the most calories per minute out of any type of exercise, but it does a poor job of building muscle, and can even lead to muscle loss. A cardio program without proper strength training included can actually slow down your metabolism (due to muscle loss), leading to plateaus. This doesn’t mean cardio should be avoided and still provides significant benefits, such as improving aerobic conditioning and the efficiency of the heart and lungs, but it shouldn’t be your sole form of exercise
Strength training provides benefits that are often underappreciated. It builds and maintains muscle, improves bone density and posture, and reduces the risk of injury. People who strength train are also more likely to recover quickly from injury. You may not lose as much weight strength training program because muscle is denser than fat, but it will help you achieve a leaner physique, lose fat and keep it off through a higher metabolism. The muscular development that comes with strength training won’t make you “bulky” either. There are specific ways to train and diet for bulking and it takes a lot of time and effort that most people don’t have. So don’t be worried that it might happen to you. It’s like getting in a pool for the first time and being worried that you’ll become an Olympic swimmer.
Muscular growth offers a wide range of benefits when it comes to weight loss. It creates longer-lasting calorie burn because muscle is metabolically active. This increases calories burned throughout the day and builds a better metabolism. You can further your efforts to lose weight by strength training to maximize burning calories. This can be done by moving faster between exercises, increasing reps and sets, shortening rest times, and choosing heavier weights. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) exercises are a great way to do this, like in our Flow FIT classes. HIIT is still a strength training method, but it keeps your heart rate high, challenges your lung capacity, and burns lots of calories while building muscle at the same time.
At the end of the day, both cardio and strength training are important and when combined can optimize weight loss. So if you are trying to lose weight, be sure to incorporate strength training in addition to cardio. If you’re unsure of how to incorporate strength training into your routine, the good news is that you’re a member of a gym with a staff of knowledgeable trainers and instructors, ready to help you achieve your fitness goals.