Is lifting weights at the top of your exercise list?

Over the last 5 - 10 years there has been a movement in the health and fitness community against chronic endurance exercise and towards strength-oriented exercise. Certain experts say that too much endurance training creates the “skinny fat” appearance by altering hormone balance, creating excessive free radical damage, and enhancing food cravings. This argument certainly has merit and doing lots of endurance exercise is not essential for optimal health or body composition. 

But before you trade in your road bike for barbells, keep in mind that endurance training offers several benefits: the release of “feel good” endorphins, more allowance of food indulgences, has a significant social component – which is arguably the greatest anti-aging strategy, and by using races as goals to work towards, it creates structure and a sense of accomplishment.

So then why is weightlifting so important? Simply put, it is a time efficient strategy that provides benefits that goes beyond endurance training, thereby optimizing hormonal balance, body composition, and performance. In fact, one study found that over a two year period, premenopausal women who lifted weights twice per week (3 sets of 8-10 reps per exercise) lost significantly more body fat and had 15% less of an increase in intra-abdominal fat (the dangerous fat surrounding our organs that is associated with several diseases) compared with a group of women not lifting weights.

When weights are incorporated correctly and at the proper intensity, it is my number 1 form of exercise for creating a leaner and healthier body composition. That is a bold statement coming from a lifelong endurance athlete. There are a few reasons for this:

  1.  Intense full-body weight lifting causes a significant amount of muscle breakdown, which is good because over the next 48 hours the food you eat is going to be directed towards muscle repair as opposed to fuelling fat stores
  2. Weight lifting causes the release of growth hormone and testosterone – key anti-aging hormones (and women need testosterone too - just in lesser amounts)
  3. Weight lifting typically does not result in food cravings as intensely as long endurance exercise

I am a firm believer that lifting weights twice per week and ensuring sufficient sleep are the two most important things you can do for your overall health, fitness, and body composition. Adding in small or large amounts of endurance exercise (depending on your goals) each week along with healthy food choices is also important. 

By: Jeff scull, M.A., Aegis Research and Development | Nutrition and Triathlon Coach