Lift Weights Lose Weight

Not everyone is a bodybuilder, you can tone up without bulking.

Eric Heiden, M.D.

Tribune Media Services

December 2, 2009


When I was speed skating, we cross-trained year-round by lifting weights a couple of times a week. I found weight lifting so satisfying that even today, no matter how busy my schedule gets, not a week goes by that you won't find me out in the garage lifting weights, often with the kids and the dog out there, too.

Beyond the fun and satisfaction, however, building muscle does more than allow you to pick up heavy objects, emerging research shows.

Besides the bone-building benefits of weight-bearing activities, studies have also linked lifting weight to losing weight (Cell Metabolism, February 2008). My colleague Max Testa, M.D., notes that activities that are a good combination of aerobic and weight lifting (using light weight and high repetitions) offer the greatest pay-off in terms of burning fat, especially sub-abdominal fat - which is the most dangerous because it's linked to heart disease.

When most people think about weight lifting they picture doing bench presses at a gym with a bunch of muscle heads. The truth is, weight-bearing exercise encompasses a wide variety of other activities, including:

Public health guidelines recommend we make time in our schedules to do three days a week of muscle-strengthening activities. Here are some tips for making the most of that time: Of course, traditional weight lifting works, too. Having a weight set you can use at home makes muscle-strengthening exercise less of a chore.

If you invest in one weight set, especially dumbbells, beware of buying a set that requires you to physically add weight to a barbell (or remove it) as you do your different lifts. Why? Because it's human nature to become lazy and not change them. There is great variation in the amount of weight you should be using for each type of lift.

To make changing weight easy, get a rack of dumbbells ranging in weight from one to sixty-five pounds in five-pound increments. Nautilus also makes weight sets that allow you to dial in the weight you want; these have the added advantage of taking up less space as well.

When using free weights or weight machines, remember: But a fondness for barbells is NOT a requirement. As I've pointed out, a number of different activities can grant you the benefits of greater muscular strength, including increased lean body mass and higher metabolism - both of which are especially good if you have a high BMI (body mass index) and want to lose weight. It can also build your bones and prevent those pesky muscle aches and joint injuries.

I promise, you won't turn into a power lifter, and your improved muscular strength will benefit you in ways that go far beyond bulging biceps - or thighs.

( Eric Heiden, M.D., a five-time Olympic Gold medalist speed skater, is now an orthopedic surgeon in Utah. He co-authored "Faster, Better, Stronger: Your Fitness Bible" (HarperCollins) with exercise performance physician Max Testa, MD, and DeAnne Musolf. www.heidenothopaedics.com)