I have a confession to make. When I first started out on my fitness journey, I was what you would call a “Cardio Queen.” Being uninformed, I thought that the best way to get in shape was to do cardio, and if some cardio was good for you, well then more should be even better! But, as I started doing some research, I learned that I was really missing out on all of the benefits of strength training. As I began to incorporate weight lifting into my exercise routine, I noticed that I was not only getting more toned, but I was also avoiding injuries from my cardio workouts because I was getting stronger. Don’t get me wrong; aerobic exercise is important for good health, but it’s only half of the equation. Keep reading for the other half.
For optimal fitness, longevity, and a lean body, weight training is essential. If you avoid pumping iron because you’re afraid of getting “bulky,” then you’re missing out on one of the best fat-burning methods around. When you’re weight training, you shouldn’t rely exclusively on the scale to gauge your progress. You can use a body fat tester or a tape measure to track how many inches you’re losing. The size of your body will shrink as you shed fat and build muscle, but your weight may not change as dramatically as you expect. Besides, what’s more important, the number on the scale or how you look in your clothes? If you’re still not convinced that you need to lift weights, here are 10 reasons why you should reconsider.
1. Burn more fat
Researchers at Tufts University 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. When you do an intense weight-training program, your metabolism stays elevated and you continue to burn fat for several hours afterward (even while you’re sitting at your desk). During regular cardio exercise, you stop burning fat shortly after the workout.
2. Change your body shape
You may think your genes determine how you look. That’s not necessarily true. Weight training can slim you down, create new curves, and help avoid the “middle-age spread.” Dropping only 3 percent of your body fat could translate into a total loss of 3 inches off your hips and thighs. And don’t worry women, you won’t bulk up-women don’t have enough muscle-building hormones to gain a lot of mass like men do. If you keep your diet clean and create a calorie deficit, you’ll burn fat.
3. Boost your metabolism
The less muscle you have, the slower your metabolism will be. As we age, we lose muscle at increasing rates, especially after the age of 40. When you diet without doing resistance training, up to 25 percent of the weight loss may be muscle loss. Weight training while dieting can help you preserve and even rebuild muscle fibers. The more lean mass you have, the higher your metabolism will be and the more calories you’ll burn all day long.
4. Get stronger and more confident
Lifting weights increases functional fitness, which makes everyday tasks such as carrying children, lifting grocery bags, and picking up heavy suitcases much easier. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular weight training can make you 50 percent stronger in 6 months. Being strong is also empowering. Not only does it improve your physical activities, it builds emotional strength by boosting self-esteem and confidence.
5. Build strong bones
It’s been well documented that we need to do weight-bearing exercise to build and maintain bone mass and prevent osteoporosis. Just as muscles get stronger and bigger with use, so do bones when they’re made to bear weight. Stronger bones and increased muscle mass also lead to better flexibility and balance, which is especially important for us as we age.
6. Fight depression
You’ve probably heard that cardio and low-impact exercises such as yoga help alleviate depression, and weight lifting has the same effect. The endorphins that are released during aerobic activities are also present during resistance training. Many people find that regular strength training, in conjunction with psychological treatment, helps lessen their depression symptoms substantially.
7. Improve sports fitness
You don’t have to be an athlete to get the sports benefit of weight training. Improved muscle mass and strength will help you in all physical activities, whether it’s bicycling with the family, swimming, golfing, or skiing . . . whatever sport you enjoy.
8. Reduce injuries and arthritis
Weight lifting improves joint stability and builds stronger ligaments and tendons. Training safely and with proper form can help decrease the likelihood of injuries in your daily life. It can also improve physical function in people with arthritis. A study conducted at the University of Wales in Bangor, United Kingdom, found that mildly disabled participants who lifted weights for 12 weeks increased the frequency and intensity at which they could work, with less pain and increased range of movement.
9. Heart health
More than 480,000 women die from cardiovascular disease each year, making it the number-one killer of women over the age of 25. Most people don’t realize that pumping iron can also keep your heart pumping. Lifting weights increases your “good” (HDL) cholesterol and decreases your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. It also lowers your blood pressure. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports 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.
10. Defend against diabetes
In addition to keeping your ticker strong, weight training can improve glucose utilization (the way your body processes sugar) by as much as 23 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 weeks of strength training can improve glucose metabolism in a way that is comparable to taking diabetes medication. The more lean mass you have, the more efficient your body is at removing glucose from the blood, which can reduce complications from diabetes or even help prevent type 2 diabetes in the first place.