While aerobic exercise is a popular mode of exercise endorsed for physical fitness and health, weight lifting is also beneficial.
Weightlifting, also known as strength or resistance exercise, focuses on the use of resistance to induce muscular contraction. This in turn builds the strength, anaerobic endurance and size of skeletal muscles.
When properly performed, weight lifting has significant functional benefits and improves overall health and well-being.
The basic principles of strength training include a number of repetitions (reps), sets, tempo, exercises and force to cause changes in muscle strength, endurance or size.
Strength training can be done at home or in the gym. It will not only build muscle but also help prevent disease, improve your mood and lots more.
Here are 10 smart reasons to lift weights.
1. Aids Weight Loss
Lifting weights helps keep you in good shape. It helps the body burn fat, during and after exercise.
After a session of strength training, you continue to consume additional oxygen over the next few hours, which is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).
When the body uses more oxygen, it needs more caloric expenditure and an increased metabolic rate. This in turn aids in shedding pounds and helps maintain weight loss, too.
Higher intensity lifting stimulates lipolysis (fat breakdown and release) and increases the body’s metabolism long after training is finished.
Plus, as weightlifting starts increasing your strength and lean muscle mass, it will help your body use calories more efficiently. This helps you lose the weight and also tone your body.
A 2006 study published in the Journal of Exercise Science and Physiotherapy analyzed the effectiveness of aerobic and strength training in causing weight loss and favorable body composition on 120 females ranging in age from 20 to 40 years.
Researchers concluded that strength training conserved the lean body mass and reduced the fat compartment and thus caused favorable body composition in females.
2. Helps Reduce Belly Fat
Doing a workout with weights is highly effective at reducing belly fat, which is the toughest to get rid of.
A 2013 study published in the International Journal of Cardiology reports that high-intensity resistance training helps reduce belly fat much faster than cardio activity alone.
Another study published in Obesity (Silver Spring) in 2015 reports that among various activities, weight training had the strongest association with less waist circumference increase.
Weight training also keeps your muscles in good shape and provides you with a well-toned body.
3. Strengthens Bones
Weight training exercises are good at strengthening your muscles as well as your bones.
Regular weight lifting increases bone density, which reduces the risk of fractures and osteoporosis, a condition more common in women than men. Thus, weight training is also an excellent way to combat loss of bone mass.
A 1999 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise reports that high-intensity resistance training is helpful in improving bone health in older adults. It also has the added benefit of influencing multiple risk factors for osteoporosis, including improved strength and balance and increased muscle mass.
Another study published in Aging Clinical and Experimental Research in 2006 also sheds light on the fact that appropriate training regimens may reduce the risk of falls and the severity of fall-related injuries, and also improve functional ability and the quality of life in osteoporotic patients.
4. Protects the Heart
Resistance training is also beneficial for cardiovascular health.
Simple weight-bearing exercises are a great way to get the heart pumping and improve its strength. It also helps increase your high-density lipoprotein (HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol) level and lower your resting heart rate.
A lower resting heart rate means that your heart doesn’t have to work as hard on a day-to-day basis, which in turn reduces the risk of coronary heart disease, strokes, and other heart conditions.
Also, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends moderate-intensity resistance training as a complement to aerobic exercise programs in the prevention, treatment and control of hypertension.
The AHA recommends adults aim for at least two strength-training sessions a week.
A 2006 study published in Circulation reports that weightlifting helps melt away visceral fat as well as fat that builds up around the body’s organs. This in turn reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
A 2010 study conducted in the College of Health Sciences’ Department of Health, Leisure and Exercise Science at Appalachian State University shows that resistance training has some similar effects as aerobic exercise in lowering a person’s blood pressure.
If you have a heart condition or have suffered a heart attack or stroke, seek your doctor’s advice for preparing an effective yet safe exercise program for you.
5. Improves Balance and Coordination
Weight-bearing exercises add extra emphasis on balance and coordination. In fact, proper balance and coordination between different body parts is extremely important for people as they age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Backention, falls are the leading cause of injury-related death in adults over 65.
Strength training helps you develop better body mechanics and improves flexibility and balance, especially as you get older.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research reports that moderately intense resistance training improves flexibility in an exclusively young, sedentary female population.
Also, a 2013 study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science notes that strength training can help improve overall muscle strength and balance.
6. Improves Sleep
While exercise in general has been shown to help improve sleep patterns, weight lifting in particular can lead to a better night’s sleep. It even helps you fall asleep faster, sleep deeper and wake less often during the night.
A 2005 study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine reports that resistance training improves sleep quality in older adults. However, further research is required to explore the effects of resistance training performed at different times of the day upon changes in sleep quality.
A 2011 study published in the International SportMed Journal shows that endurance and strength training performed in the morning has an effect on nighttime rest, making it easier to fall asleep, lengthening the real time of sleep and improving overall sleep quality.
A 2012 study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology also confirms that a session of resistance training has a modest influence on sleep consolidation in men ages 65 to 80 years.
7. Lowers Diabetes Risk
Nearly 350 million people have diabetes worldwide, and you may also become one of them in the coming years. To lower your risk of diabetes, strength training with weights can play a significant role.
It helps the body respond better to insulin, improve the way it uses blood sugar, aid in weight loss and also lower your risk for heart disease.
In fact, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that people with Type 2 diabetes start a strength-training program to help with blood sugar control.
A 2006 study published in Diabetes Care highlights the use of resistance training for improving glycemic control and insulin sensitivity in Type 2 diabetes.
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research also confirms the positive association between lifting weights and metabolic syndrome diseases, such as diabetes.
According to a 2013 study published in Nature Medicine, weightlifting helps regulate blood glucose. Weight training encourages the growth of white muscle, which aids in lowering blood glucose because it uses glucose for energy.
The ADA recommends doing some type of strength training at least two times per week in addition to aerobic activity to lower your risk of diabetes as well as manage your blood sugar level.
8. Reduces Depression Symptoms
When it comes to the effects of exercise on anxiety and depression, it’s well-known that aerobic exercise is beneficial.
Weight-bearing exercises are beneficial in dealing with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness resulting from mood disturbances, anxiety and depression. These exercises help release feel-good endorphins to keep anxiety at bay, and may also help fight depression.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research reports that lighter intensity resistance training programs are beneficial to maximize psychological benefits and improve early attrition and adherence.
Another study published in Frontiers in Psychology in 2014 reports that resistance exercise produces anxiolytic effects in a variety of populations, which is beneficial in the clinical management of anxiety.
9. Backents Back Pain
Any kind of sitting job can create havoc on your lower back, leading to stiffness and pain. Strength training targeted at the back reduces lower back pain and the incidence of lower back injuries.
It helps strengthen your core muscles that support your spine. This in turn will lessen the discomfort in your back and undo some of the damage caused by sitting all day.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science reports that core strength training is more effective than typical resistance training for alleviating chronic low back pain. The study recommends focusing on training the deep trunk muscles to alleviate chronic low back pain.
Another benefit of strength training is that it will improve your posture, which in turn preserves the spine and reduces lower back pain.
10. Boosts Mental and Cognitive Health
Lifting weights not only makes you physically stronger but also mentally sharper.
Any exercise will help keep your brain healthy. A 2013 study published in Psychology in Aging reports that any type of exercise has immediate benefits for affective and cognition performance regardless of age.
However, researchers found that resistance training resulted in beneficial cognitive functioning. It helps improve memory, cognition as well as self-esteem.
A 2007 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise analyzed the impact of resistance exercise on the cognitive function of the elderly and found that moderate- and high-intensity resistance exercise programs had equally beneficial effects on cognitive functioning.