For all of you cardio bunnies, yogis, cyclists, and pilates enthusiasts, I encourage you to add weight lifting to your exercise routine—not soon—today! Not only will you reap more benefits from resistance training, but you’ll also achieve results in half the time and most likely spending half the amount of money.
Cardio, yoga, and pilates are all great methods of physical activity and should not be forgotten because they do benefit your heart health, flexibility, core, and balance. However, I challenge you to incorporate strength training into your routine and see just how much your body transforms.
It is important to remember that it doesn’t matter how many reps you can do, or how much weight you can push or pull, it is just about putting a load on your bones and muscles to stimulate proper growth. Strength training can be performed at all levels of fitness and at any age.
Lifting weights has been shown to benefit and provide supplemental treatment for those already experience high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, depression, osteoporosis and more! So pick up some weights or bands today and start seeing what your body is capable of!
14 Benefits of Weightlifting
1. Burn Off Unwanted Body Fat
Lifting weights is the best form of physical activity for losing body fat, especially abdominal fat, and has shown to be superior to steady state cardiovascular training. This is because when cardio is performed in excess, or when you are in a calorie deficit, you tend to lose lean muscle mass in addition to fat. This ends up slowing down your metabolic rate.
Also, “fatty acids are an important source of energy for skeletal muscle contraction” and studies show that fat metabolism is twice as great in skeletal muscle after exercise than before! (1). So ladies, pick up the weights and start shedding unwanted body fat today!
2. Increase Lean Body Mass by Improving Muscle to Fat Ratio
Strength training builds lean muscle and those muscles strengthen as they are utilized in the gym. The work put in at the gym will assist your muscles in daily activities and your body starts shedding body fat all day long, leading to an improvement in body composition.
3. Become a Calorie Burning Machine by Increasing Resting Metabolic Rate
Muscle tissue is the most metabolically efficient component of our body and utilizes a great amount of energy to maintain, grow, and repair. As you increase the amount of muscle you have on your body, your resting metabolic rate increases, making you a calorie burning machine (2).
This means on your rest days when you are sitting on the couch, you will continue to burn plenty of calories, much more than others who do not engage in strength training!
4. Lose Inches Off Your Waist
One of the greatest benefits of lifting weights is losing inches from your waist line. Sometimes progress isn’t seen on the scale in terms of weight loss, but our waist line doesn’t lie! (link to scale is lying to you article) Without seeing pounds drop off the scale you think… how is this possible?
Now, we’ve all heard muscle weighs more than fat. FALSE! Muscle is simply more compact than fat and takes up less space or volume, therefore when you have more muscle and less fluffy fat on your bones, you achieve a tighter and smaller figure. This often results in dropping a dress size or two and fitting into smaller pant sizes. Yippee!
5. Maximize Caloric Output
The reason strength training is efficient at burning calories is because we experience an increase in excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) after a weight training workout. This leads to an increase in caloric expenditure throughout the day and studies have shown positive effects lasting up to 48 hours (3).
So, when you are in a hurry and need to fit in a workout, choose weights over cardio! To get the aerobic benefits of cardio exercise during your strength training routine, focus on circuit training or interval training to increase your heart rate without losing hard earned muscle mass!
6. Maintain a Healthy Diet
You are more likely to maintain a healthy diet when you adhere to an exercise program. Not only do you need good food to fuel your body through your workouts, but you will also want to eat healthier and cleaner to maintain your hard earned work. When you feel better from the inside out, you begin to crave good foods that energize you and do not weigh you down. Don’t let your workouts, and most importantly your time, go to waste!
7. Manage Stress, Anxiety and Depression
Lifting weights has been a great distraction for many and a positive outlet for anger and stress. Doctors recommend strength training as a supplemental treatment for the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Studies show that the relationship between resistance training and managing depression has been positive (4). I don’t know about you, but I always feel amazing after leaving the gym, despite the mood or mindset I was in when I started.
8. Gain Confidence and Improve Self-Esteem
The improvements in your body’s appearance leave you feeling confident and proud. You also feel better from the inside out, physically and mentally. You feel stronger and better able to participate in sports, hobbies and daily activities. The barriers that many of us breakthrough in order to reach our goals leaves us feeling powerful and accomplished. The journey leaves us with improved self esteem (5).
9. Build Stronger Bones and Prevent Osteoporosis
As we age our metabolism slows down, we lose lean muscle, begin to gain body fat, and our bones become brittle (6). All of these our part of the aging process and leave us prone to injury and chronic pain. For years “exercise has been reported as one of the best non-pharmacological ways to improve bone mass throughout life” (7).
Strength training has shown to elicit a strong stimulus for maintaining and protecting bone mass, especially for women. Doctors recommend lifting weights for the prevention and improvement of osteoporosis and bone health. Strength training improves osteoporosis by increasing the strength and mineral density of skeletal bones, leading to increased activity and improved well being in older adults.
10. Improve Heart Health and Prevent Cardiovascular Disease
Studies show that lifting weights lowers blood pressure post workout for up to 24 hours and increases blood flow to reduce the risk of blood clots and heart attacks (8). Strength training also utilizes triglycerides in the bloodstream for energy and thus removes excess fat from the bloodstream to prevent hardening of the arteries.
The American Heart Association has always recommended aerobic activity for patients with high blood pressure and those at risk for heart disease. But recently, resistance training has gained just as much recognition for its benefits on heart health.
11. Build Beautiful Curves
Ladies, in order to get that round, firm, and lifted butt that we all want, we must lift weights. Also, to get nicely toned and shapely shoulders, legs, back, arms, and abdominals you must lift weights! The curves that weight training achieves are beautiful. You will feel and look tighter and firmer all around. Wearing a dress has never looked so good!
12. Improve Insulin Sensitivity and Prevent or Manage Diabetes
Strength training has been associated with improved glucose metabolism, increased insulin sensitivity and decreased risk of glucose intolerance and type 2 diabetes (9). These benefits are most likely due to improvements in body composition by reductions in body fat, especially abdominal fat, and overall weight loss. Studies also state that strength training modifies skeletal muscle morphology after exercise and these changes have been associated with improved insulin levels, glucose tolerance, and glucose clearance (10).
These are extremely important factors when preventing diabetes, regulating energy levels, and maintaining or trying to lose weight.
13. Increase Strength, Flexibility and Balance
Lifting weights not only builds strong muscles and bones, but it also contributes to the strength of your tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. It is important to have strong connective tissues for “joint integrity, stability, and injury prevention”(5). Strengthening your connective tissues also plays a role in increasing your flexibility and allowing you to perform daily life activities properly and safely.
14. Improve Mood and Boost Energy Levels
Strength training could be the cure to your constant fatigue! When you lift weights, endorphins are released in your brain, which are natural feel good hormones that contribute to improved mood and decreased stress (4). Also, Pete Mcall, Exercise Physiologist at the American Council on Exercise states, “If a sedentary individual begins an exercise program it will enhance the blood flow carrying oxygen and nutrients to muscle tissue improving their ability to produce more energy (the chemical adenosine triphosphate)” (11).
With enhanced mood and a boost in energy, you will be more productive throughout the day and get a better night’s sleep, leaving you well rested for the next day.
These are just 14 reasons to hit the weights today, but the benefits are endless! It is important to contact your physician before engaging in physical activities. Once cleared, we recommend you find a well qualified personal trainer in your area to get you started and teach you the fundamentals of lifting weights.
When you feel ready to take on an exercise routine on your own, check out Body Breakthrough’s 12-week program which is a step by step guide to teach you all you need to know about losing that unwanted body fat.
- Martin WH 3rd. Effects of acute and chronic exercise on fat metabolism. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 1996;24:203-31. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8744251. Review. PubMed PMID: 8744251.
- Speakman JR, Selman C. Physical activity and resting metabolic rate. Proc Nutr Soc. 2003 Aug;62(3):621-34. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14692598. Review. PubMed PMID: 14692598.
- Greer BK, Sirithienthad P, Moffatt RJ, Marcello RT, Panton LB. EPOC Comparison Between Isocaloric Bouts of Steady-State Aerobic, Intermittent Aerobic, and Resistance Training. Res Q Exerc Sport. 2015 Jun;86(2):190-5. doi:10.1080/02701367.2014.999190. Epub 2015 Feb 12. PubMed PMID: 25675374.
- Craft LL, Perna FM. The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed. Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2004;6(3):104-111.
- Ebben WP, Jensen RL. Strength Training for Women: Debunking Myths that Block Opportunity. The Physician And Sportsmedicine. 1998. 26:5.
- Gómez-Cabello A, Ara I, González-Agüero A, Casajús JA, Vicente-Rodríguez G. Effects of training on bone mass in older adults: a systematic review. Sports Med. 2012 Apr 1;42(4):301-25. doi: 10.2165/11597670-000000000-00000. Review. PubMed PMID: 22376192.
- Jan Sundell, “Resistance Training Is an Effective Tool against Metabolic and Frailty Syndromes,” Advances in Preventive Medicine, vol. 2011, Article ID 984683, 7 pages, 2011. doi:10.4061/2011/984683
- Boone. Study Shows Resistance Training Benefits Cardiovascular Health. ASU News. 2010. Web. http://www.news.appstate.edu/2010/11/29/study-shows-resistance-training-benefits-cardiovascular-health/.
- Ryan AS. Insulin resistance with aging: effects of diet and exercise. Sports Med. 2000 Nov;30(5):327-46. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11103847. Review. PubMed PMID: 11103847.
- Ivy JL. Role of exercise training in the prevention and treatment of insulin resistance and non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.Sports Med. 1997 Nov;24(5):321-36. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9368278. Review. PubMed PMID: 9368278
- Exercise As a Cure for Fatigue and To Boost Energy Levels. American Council on Exercise Website. https://www.acefitness.org/acefit/fitness-programs-article/2742/ACEFit-workout-advice-and-exercise-tips/. Accessed November 19, 2015.