When you think of weight training, body builders with bulky muscles and chiseled chests come to mind, but scientists say resistance training offers incredible benefits for everyday people hoping for better health, too.
We are very familiar with the benefits of aerobic exercise like running, cycling or walking, but we haven’t focused on lifting and strength exercise. The reality is the two, in terms of health benefits, overlap more than they differ.
Here’s a look at reasons why resistance training is incredible for your health.
It keeps your bones strong and healthy
Your bones need to stay challenged, just like your brain needs exercise to stay sharp. After about age 30, you start to lose bone density at a small percentage each year. Keep in mind, women make up 80 per cent of osteoporosis cases as they lose bone mass. Lifting can help!
Staves off disease
Research is recognizing that cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and “all the classic chronic diseases” including cancer aren’t as likely with any form of activity, from strength training to cardio.
Boosts metabolism and fat loss
Weight lifting will help you improve whole-body metabolism. Imagine your body is a house and aerobic exercise cranks the heat for about 30 to 40 minutes while you work out. Resistance training, on the other hand, doesn’t turn the heat up as much but the burn lingers for a longer time.
When it comes to the effects of exercise on depression, aerobic exercise, such as running and swimming, has been much more extensively researched than anaerobic exercise, such as weightlifting. But as one study reports, there’s little difference between the two in terms of how well they relieve symptoms of depression.
Body awareness or being able to recruit the proper muscles in the right sequence, is key for moving in a way that is both efficient and safe in daily life. Doing a squat in the gym helps you to learn how to perform those movements correctly.
The World Health Organization reports that nearly 350 million people have diabetes worldwide and predicts that by 2030, the disease will be the seventh leading cause of death. You probably know that living a healthy lifestyle — including managing your weight, eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and abstaining from tobacco use — can help you prevent becoming a statistic, but you may not know that weightlifting, specifically, plays a significant role in reducing your risk.
Keep your ticker in top form by pumping iron. The study looked at what happens to arteries and blood flow after 45 minutes of moderate-intensity strength training and found that there was up to a 20 percent decrease in blood pressure — a benefit equal to or surpassing that of taking anti-hypertensive drugs. The blood flow-improving effects of resistance exercise persisted for about 30 minutes after the end of a training session and continued for as long as 24 hours in people who trained regularly — 30 to 45 minutes a few times a week.
If you work in an office, you know that sitting at your desk all day can wreak havoc on your lower back, leading to stiffness and pain. Weightlifting may help strengthen the muscles of your core — those that support your spine — to lessen the discomfort and undo some of the damage caused by sitting all day.
Aside from your major muscle groups, like your pecs and hamstrings, your body has various smaller muscles called stabilizer muscles. These muscles do exactly what you would think: They help stabilize you. Each time you work out you’re indirectly targeting those little muscles that help keep you upright and take care of everyday tasks such as balancing on one foot to reach a high shelf or stopping yourself from falling on an icy surface.
Stop fearing the weights — lifting them is not going to turn you into a muscle-bound freak. Building huge muscles is intentional and takes a great amount of work. Lifting weights and eating a healthy diet will result in a fit and lean body, not a big and bulky one.
When you feel stronger physically, you usually feel stronger mentally. Weightlifting teaches you the skill of perseverance, the ability to overcome discomfort and challenge yourself.
Thanks to the Heavens group of Personal Fitness Coaches for their input on this article.