THE BLOG
07/12/2011 12:16 pm ET Updated Sep 11, 2011

Why You Should Be Lifting Weights

"Although your metabolism influences your body's basic energy needs, it's your food and beverage intake and your physical activity that ultimately determine how much you weigh."
-The Mayo Clinic

One aspect that influences the speed at which your body burns calories is how much muscle tissue you have. This is why men burn more calories than women. They genetically have more muscle tissue than we do. But how many more calories does muscle tissue really burn?

The man credited with the most accurate findings on how many calories muscle tissue burns is Dr. Cedric X. Bryant, the Chief Science Officer for the American Council on Exercise. According to Dr. Bryant:

"Muscle tissue has been observed to burn roughly seven to 10 calories per pound per day, compared to two to three calories per pound per day for fat. Therefore, if you replace a pound of fat with a pound of muscle, you can expect to burn only approximately four to six more calories a day. Given the fact that the average person who strength trains typically gains approximately three to five pounds of muscle mass over a period of three to four months, the net caloric effect of such a training regimen is very modest--only 15 to 30 calories per day (the equivalent of a few potato chips)."

Even though this doesn't sound like very much, it really is. It's equivalent to three-pound weight loss, approximately, per year. That's without reducing your calories at all. Considering how hard it can be to lose three pounds, this is significant over time.

As we age, we lose muscle mass and it gets replaced with fat tissue. This is why our metabolism slows down and we need fewer calories to maintain the same weight. Weight training can help reverse this. It can also help keep your bones and muscles strong.

I know some of us picture the body builders when we think of lifting weights. That is the extreme. Most of us will never even come close to looking like that, no matter how much weight training we do. So instead, think of a person who looks really fit and aim for that.

You don't have to join a gym or buy fancy equipment to lift weights. Sit-ups, push-ups, squats and lunges use your own body as weight. I also recommend getting some inexpensive weights for your arms. You can find them at places like Target, at very reasonable prices.

So, start pumping some iron. It's one of the best things you can do to keep yourself fit, lean and strong.

Irene's new book, Foodaholic, The Seven Stages to Permanent Weight Loss will be available July 26th. Sign up here for updates.