Burn More Calories Every Day

Find out how strength training can boost your metabolic rate

benefits of strength training

Photo by: Steve Cukrov/iStock

Because muscle burns more calories than other types of body tissue, building muscle mass increases your metabolic rate, helping to counteract the 5% loss per decade that accompanies age. In fact, most of what we recognize as aging is actually muscle loss. Strength training works by stressing muscle fibers in ways that prompt them to repair and rebuild themselves; regular sessions of lifting weights or other forms of resistance training promote a continual remodeling of muscle tissue, increasing your calorie-burning ability while toning and tightening your body. As you sculpt your muscles, you'll be building a firm foundation for skin, reducing and preventing the appearance of wrinkles, droops, and sags.

Strength training can even slow the aging of your cells. It turns out that structures inside cells called mitochondria, which turn nutrients into energy, tend to operate less effectively as the body ages. Scientists believe this slowdown may be involved in muscle loss and at least partially reversed with strength-building exercises.

Your training options
The good news about strength training is that there's more than one way to do it, so you don't have to be limited to one type, or even a specific location or kind of equipment—you can strength-train at a gym or at home, using:

• Machines (with resistance generated by weights, water, or compressed air)

• Free weights (like dumbbells, bars, and kettlebells)

• Your own body weight (moves like squats, lunges, and push-ups are good examples)

• Resistance bands

Insider Tip: We’re partial to resistance bands (available in sporting-goods stores and online) because they're more versatile than machines and just as effective. Free weights and machines create tension in only one direction (from either pulling up or pushing down), but bands provide resistance in both directions. One type of movement causes muscles to shorten; the other makes them lengthen. When you combine both, you'll sculpt your body double-time. With bands, you can also control the tension to work different muscle groups, adjust the level of difficulty, and add variety to your fitness plan. Bands are portable, too—easy to take with you on a walk or slip into a suitcase when you travel.

If you prefer to strength-train with free weights or weight machines, use the weight room at your local gym, or exercise with dumbbells at home. If you've never pumped iron before, sign up for a few sessions with a personal trainer. That way, you'll learn how to get the most out of each move—without risking injury—as well as how to increase the weight or resistance as you get stronger.

Go ahead and give it a shot—you've got nothing to lose but the flab!