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Weight loss is not just about cardio: Why you need strength training and a diet regime equally

We’ve all heard the internet advice, if you want to lose weight, do more cardio. While cardiovascular exercises like running, cycling, elliptical trainers, dancing and swimming undeniably promote our overall health and well-being, they are just one piece of the weight loss puzzle. Let’s dispel the myth and delve into the multifaceted reality of effective weight loss.

Myth: Cardio is the golden key to weight loss

Cardiovascular exercises are physical activities that keep our heart rate elevated for a prolonged period. In the long run, cardiovascular activities help improve the strength of our heart muscle and stabilise our resting heart rate, which is strongly linked to longevity. Moreover, they also help improve lung capacity and elevate the body’s calorie-burning transiently as long as the activity is sustained. So just looking at your treadmill console won’t help really.

In fact, many of you are told that if you work out harder in shorter bursts, you will burn more calories even after your workout is over. But that is a temporary phenomenon. Over time, many of us have considered cardio the singular, definitive solution to shedding those extra kilos of weight. Indeed, if one runs long enough or cycles hard enough, the kilos will melt away, right? However, the science of weight loss is multidimensional. It includes a sensible eating plan and strength training, crucial to increasing our ability to lose excess weight and sustain it at a healthy level in the long run.

Reality: Weight loss is multidimensional

1. Diet is Paramount: No matter how much time you spend doing cardiovascular activities, whether running, cycling or swimming, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. Think of it this way: An eight-kilometre run might burn 800 calories but a single slice of a standard 14-inch long pizza has around 300 calories, and a decadent dessert like one gulab jamun contains about 200 calories. So if our dietary choices are not optimal then we can quickly surpass that 800-calorie burn. Consuming more calories than you expend is associated with weight gain, irrespective of your cardio regimen. A balanced diet, rich in whole foods, protein, fibre and water, helps with portion control, a cornerstone of any weight loss journey.

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2. Strength Training is Essential: While cardio exercises target aerobic capacity and stamina, strength training focusses on building the strength of the body by increasing muscle size and strength. But why is muscle important for weight loss? Muscle tissue has contractile and relaxation ability and thus burns more calories at rest than fat tissue. Thus, increasing muscle mass boosts our resting metabolic rate, which means we’ll burn more calories throughout the day, even when not exercising. Moreover, strength training provides shape, tone, and a leaner appearance as body composition changes, favouring lean tissue.

3. Combination is Key: When cardio is combined with strength training and a balanced diet, the trio acts as a synergistic force against excessive weight gain. Cardio activities elevate calorie burning but only transiently. On the other hand, strength training builds muscle to boost metabolic rates, and a wholesome diet ensures that the body receives optimal nutrition without excessive calories.

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It’s time to move beyond simplistic notions of weight loss that focus solely on cardio. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight requires a holistic approach, incorporating a balanced diet, cardiovascular exercise and strength training. By recognising and implementing this multifaceted strategy, we place ourselves on the path to sustainable, long-term health and wellness. Weight loss isn’t just about how much you move; it’s also about what you eat and how you strengthen your body. Let’s embrace this reality and approach our health with the comprehensive care it deserves.

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