Can Lifting Weights Help Control Your Weight?

Laura Del Guerra, RD, CDE, Take Control Health Coach

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A recent study suggests a strong correlation between lifting weights a few times a week and weight control. The study looked into the relationship between lifting weights and waist measurement. The records of almost 12,000 mostly middle-aged participants were pulled from a previous study done between 1987 – 2005. In addition to the typical measurements of health and fitness, participants filled out a questionnaire which among other items, asked if they engaged in muscle-strengthening exercises and if they did – how often and for how long each week.

As researchers combed through the data, they found that about 19% of study participants became obese during the course of the study. However, regular weight lifting changed this outcome and lowered the risk of a participant developing obesity. Participants who lifted weights a few times a week for a weekly total of 1-2 hours were about 20% less likely to become obese based on BMI measurement and 30% less likely to become obese based on waist circumference or body fat percentage. What’s more, the results did not change when factors like age, sex, smoking, general health, and aerobic exercise were controlled.  

This is an exciting study because we know that many different factors are associated with successful weight loss. And now we can more confidently add weight lifting to the list. Further, this study suggests that you can get a lot of benefit from even a small amount of weight lifting.

Finally, this is one of the first studies that has specifically looked at weight lifting as a piece of the weight loss or weight control puzzle. It has long been known that weight lifting helps with mobility, strengthening of bones and joints, building muscle mass and more. While this study does not tell us how weight lifting influences body weight, we do know that lifting weights builds and maintains muscle mass; and that muscle burns more calories than fat. And this may be why the decrease in obesity was observed.

The bottom line: exercise is an important part of our overall health and wellness. Adding a bit of weight lifting either before or after your usual daily activity will likely help over time with weight control.  You can use your body weight as resistance, traditional weights or exercise bands either at home, outside, or in the gym. One to two hours a week of weight lifting is equal to 20-30 minutes-3 times a week (total body exercises) OR 12 to 24 minutes 5 times a week (various muscle groups each day).

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Resistance Band Exercises: 33 You Can Do Literally Anywhere | Greatist

Total Body Workout

Here are some are primary movements with video tutorials on proper form:

• Hip-dominant (deadlifts, hinges,)

• Knee-dominant (squats and lunges)

• Pushing movements (pushups, dips, and presses(chest or overhead)

• Pulling movements (rows and pull-ups)