In addition to nutrition and what we eat, exercise is equally important. Being sedentary and leading inactive lives is a top five risk factor for heart disease. According to the journal Circulation, as many as 250,000 deaths per year can be attributed simply to a lack of exercise. Strength training, specifically, has many benefits and is often times overlooked – especially by women.
Many people focus all of their energy on aerobic exercises like jogging, walking, running or taking aerobics classes when they want to start losing weight. While this is important and a great place to start, often times people notice that while they may see moderate results on the scale, there are still some less than firm areas that just won’t seem to budge. Sound familiar? Aerobic, or cardio, exercise is important, but it’s only part of the equation when it comes to getting the results you want
For optimal fitness, functionality, longevity, and a lean body, incorporating some form of weight training is essential. Many women in particular shy away from any form of weights because they are afraid of getting “bulky”. Unless you are maxing out lifting very heavy weights that is unlikely to happen. In fact, the opposite result is more likely. Resistance training can increase your body’s ability to burn calories, helping you to shed pounds and look leaner
The scale is a go-to tool to gauge your progress, but it is also good to use other tools like body fat testers, tape measurers, or just the fit of your favorite jeans to track how many inches you’re losing. When you start to focus on building muscle the scale may not change as dramatically as you expect, but these other tools can help you to see that you are still making progress. Still need convincing? Here are a few health benefits that may help you decide that weight training is for you.
Lose more weight
In a study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise researchers put participants into three groups. One group was put on a calorie-restricted diet, the second cut calories and did aerobic exercise, and the third did a combination of cutting calories, aerobics and weight training. After 12 weeks, the group that included strength training lost the most weight, losing an average amount of five pounds of fat per person.
Improve blood sugars
Strength training can improve our bodies’ ability to metabolize and process sugar. The more lean mass you have, the more efficient your body is at removing glucose from the blood. This is particularly important if you have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes or you know it runs in your family. In a study of Hispanic men and women, 16 weeks of strength training resulted in dramatically improved glucose control that is comparable to taking diabetes medication.
Reduce body fat
Tufts University researchers found that when overweight women lifted heavy weights twice a week, they lost an average of 14.6 pounds of fat and gained 1.4 pounds of muscle. The control group, women who dieted but didn’t lift weights, lost only 9.2 pounds of fat and gained no muscle. After a weight-training session your metabolism continues to stay more active and burn fat for several hours.
Improve bone strength
After menopause women can lose 1-2% of their bone mass each year. It is well documented that incorporating weight-bearing exercise increases bone density and reduces the risk of fractures.
Ward off dementia
Brand new research out of the University of Sydney has found that participants in their study who did six months of weight training showed significant improvements in overall cognitive function. The improvements were still present twelve months after the training stopped. Of the 100 people studied, only the weight training group improved on the memory and brain function tests.
Improve balance and reduce risk of falls
Stronger bones and increased muscle mass also lead to better flexibility and balance. Having stronger muscles leads to stronger ligaments and tendons and better joint stability, decreasing your risk for injuries and falls in your everyday life.
Boost your metabolism
People who have more muscle mass have a higher metabolic rate, or ability to burn calories. The less muscle you have, the slower your metabolism will be. As we age we lose muscle and our metabolism decreases. Weight training can help you preserve and even rebuild muscle as you age and burn more calories at rest all day long.
Boost heart health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. with 600,000 people dying from it each year. Resistance training can help improve heart health too. Combining strength and aerobic exercise can lower blood pressure and has been shown to have a positive impact on blood lipid levels. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who do 30 minutes of weight lifting each week have a 23 percent reduced risk of developing heart disease compared to those who don’t lift weights.
So, there you go, plenty of reasons to start incorporating some strength activities along with aerobic exercise on a regular basis. Arthritis relief, improvements in depression, self-confidence and self-esteem, and better sleep are a few other benefits. The American College of Sports Medicine’s expert recommendation is to incorporate resistance training two to three days per week.
Not too confident about hitting the weight room at the gym? Work with an experienced certified trainer who can help guide you and provide a plan that will work for you. Ask someone you know who has worked with a trainer and look for someone with experience. Using your own body weight as resistance is also an option with either yoga or Pilates – both of which can be done on your own or with the help of well qualified instructors to guide you.
To quote Nike’s very famous ad campaign, “Just Do It!” Start today to incorporate regular activity into your daily life and include some form of strength training as part of that plan. No matter what age you are it is never too late. You will reap many health benefits and feel stronger and more energized!