What do you think when you hear “weight lifting”? Do you picture big muscular guys who look like they can lift cars over their heads? Do you avoid weight lifting because you think it may cause an injury or because you don’t want to “bulk up”? In reality, weight lifting and strength training can be vital to strengthening the muscles you rely on every day and can also help you avoid injuries. Bringing in groceries from the car? Or how about getting up and down from a chair? Improved balance and stamina? There are so many benefits to weight lifting for nearly everyone, not just for bodybuilders.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults get 150 minutes of strength and cardiovascular activity per week with a third of that time dedicated to strength training. Still need more convincing? Here are four benefits of adding strength training to your weekly exercise routine.
Weight Lifting Increases Muscle Mass and Bone Density
When you lift weights you stretch your muscles to the point of straining, which initiates the body’s muscle-building response, causing the fiber, and essentially the muscle, to grow. Each time you work on larger, more obvious muscles, like your quads, or biceps, you are also working on smaller muscle groups, called stabilizer muscles. These little muscles are essential for fall prevention. Having strong muscles also creates a solid foundation for performing all kinds of daily activities.
Lifting weights, even light weights, puts healthy stress on your bones, creating a need for improvement and increasing bone density, much like the body’s muscle-building response. Stronger bones decrease your risk of falls and injuries as well as osteoporosis. And if you do happen to experience a fall, stronger bones may decrease your risk of serious injury.
Weight Lifting Reduces Symptoms of Disease and Chronic Conditions
From arthritis to heart disease and back pain, many of us experience some aliment, but weight lifting and all forms of resistance training can help reduce the signs and symptoms of many of these conditions.
- Arthritis: Strength training reduces pain and stiffness and increases flexibility and strength.
- Diabetes: A study funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in The Archives of Internal Medicine found that lifting weights lowers the risk of diabetes. If you have diabetes, or are at a higher risk of the disease, strength training can help regulate blood glucose, as white muscles use glycogen as fuel.
- Osteoporosis: Building bone density reduces the risk for falls and osteoporosis.
- Heart disease: A study by researchers at Appalachian State University showed a 20 percent decrease in blood pressure after 45 minutes of moderate-intensity strength training. Blood flow improvement continued for about 30 minutes, and for individuals who trained regularly—30 to 45 minutes three times a week—the blood flow was improved for a continuous 24 hours.
- Obesity: Strength training increases metabolism which can lead to more efficient burning of calories and long-term weight control.
- Back pain: Strength training often reinforces the muscles around your spine, creating a strong core which lessens discomfort from back pain.
Weight Lifting Improves Mental Health
By gaining physical strength through weight lifting, you increase mental toughness. In all honesty, strength training can be difficult and there are times your body wants to quit, but sticking with it increases your mental strength as well as your muscular strength. Strength training can also improve sleep, and a good night’s rest is key to maintaining healthy well-being.
You’ve heard that aerobic exercise—such as walking or swimming—fights off depression, but so does anaerobic exercise, or strength training. While more studies have been done to determine the results of cardio and how it affects depression, one study showed little difference between aerobic and anaerobic training in terms of fighting depression.
Weight Lifting Preserves Strength, Independence and Energy
Strength training increases an awareness of your body as you focus on using the proper muscles to do a task. In doing this, you will be able to move with more ease using the correct muscles for simple tasks such as standing up from a chair or getting out of the car. Lifting weights helps your body learn to follow proper sequences to perform these tasks by engaging the core, then firing up the various leg muscles. Preserving your strength increases your independence. Additionally, strength training increases circulation to muscles which can improve energy levels. Being stronger also means you’ll need to exert less effort to accomplish daily tasks. This leads to increased energy levels.
Remember: you don’t have to lift heavy free weights to get the benefits of strength training. Use light dumb bells or simply use resistance bands, weight machines or other alternatives to free weights. No matter how you strength train, if you want to increase muscle mass and bone density, reduce symptoms of disease and chronic conditions, improve your mental health and preserve you strength, independence and energy, then weight lifting may be right for you. Find the nearest fitness location and get started on strengthening those muscles today.