People often decide to join a health club or start exercising because they want to look better, feel better and improve their overall health and fitness.

There’s also another common denominator – they don’t have a lot of time to work out.

If the goal is to shed some fat – and that’s usually at the top of most people’s list – they often think the quickest and easiest way is to hop on the treadmill.

Well, hop off.

Strength training also burns calories, plus a whole lot more.

Keep on burning
The simple fact is muscles require more calories to maintain than fat does.

When you’re on a treadmill, you’re only going to burn off a certain amount of calories while you’re running.

Strength training, on the other hand, increases your metabolism and has two key effects:

One, you’re burning calories while working out, especially if you’re targeting large muscle groups such as the chest, back and legs,

Two, you’re adding muscle mass to your body, with those muscles still burning off calories at rest throughout the day or days.

From your head to your toes
Strength training develops your entire body, giving you more than strong legs.

Working with weights and doing resistance exercises improves body shape, reduces body fat, increases bone density, helps prevent osteoporosis and leads to a strong abdomen, core and great posture.

And, just like a cardio exercise such as running, weight training still strengthens the heart if done properly.

The muscle myth
Some women shy away from weight training for fear they’ll end up looking like a bodybuilder, but that’s a myth.

It’s next to impossible for 99 per cent of women to put on muscle size like men because women don’t naturally have enough testosterone for this to happen.

Heave ho – no!
Weight training doesn’t always mean loading a bar and pumping it up and down.

You could start a strength-training program with no weights and use a TRX suspension system, which utilizes straps to perform exercises with your own body weight.

As you progress, weights can be added. You may do a bench press using a machine or pushups on the floor.

One key approach is an emphasis on the primal movements people perform in life such as squatting, twisting, bending, pulling and pushing.

For example, a pulling exercise may use a rowing machine or free weights, while twisting moves such as a medicine ball twist develops oblique muscles on the side of your abs for a toned waistline.

By working the major muscle groups, you’ll be able to perform primal movements more efficiently without straining or injuring your body.

The treadmill isn’t bad
There are valid reasons to include cardio workouts in your fitness regime.

Perhaps your doctor has told you that walking is the best exercise for you because of a medical condition and you’ve chosen the treadmill.

Or maybe you’re training for endurance running such as a half marathon or marathon and the treadmill gets you in the zone.

By all means go ahead, but just know that zeroing in on only cardio (running, cycling, swimming or even boxing) won’t give you the best body-fat rating, the nicest body shape and the overall fitness level you could get from strength training.

Ideally, hop on the treadmill for a warmup and cool down or use it for your cardio workout, but ensure you’re on a consistent strength-training program to receive maximum health and fitness benefits.

ParticipACTION, a national non-profit organization established in 1971 to help Canadians move more, has physical activity guidelines. It recommends adults do at least two days of muscle and bone-strengthening activities per week using major muscle groups.