When you think of weight training, your mind may first conjure up a vision of a bulky professional athlete, or the chiseled guy at the gym in the ultra classy Baby Gap tank top that reads, “free tickets to the gun show.” But, scientists say resistance training offers incredible benefits for everyday people hoping for better health, too.
Of the scientific benefits of weight training, Dr. Stuart Phillips, a McMaster University professor in kinesiology and Canada Research Chair in skeletal muscle health says:
“We’re very familiar with the benefits of aerobic exercise like running, cycling or walking, but we haven’t focused on lifting and strength exercise. They’re seen on either end of the spectrum – one makes you strong and muscular and one helps you live longer but that’s not true. The reality is the two, in terms of health benefits, overlap more than they differ.”
Dr. Brad Schoenfeld, director of the Human Performance Lab at New York City’s Lehman College reaffirms, “I’ve seen countless transformations from regimented resistance training. Not only from a body standpoint but emotionally and mentally as well.”
Both experts conducted handfuls of studies on weight training over the past few years and maintain there’s more to weight training that bulking up and building mass.
Its benefits include improved posture, better sleep, gaining bone density, maintaining weight loss, boosting metabolism, lowering inflammation and staving off chronic disease, among a laundry list of positives.
For those that need more convincing, here are 7 reasons resistance training is incredible for your health!
Phillips says the research community is recognizing that cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, and “all the classic chronic diseases” including cancer aren’t as likely with any form of activity, from strength training to cardio.
They say running is good for your heart, your brain, your waistline and your mental health. That applies to weight training too.
“A lot of the relationships with aerobic fitness are strongly tied to and mirrored in people’s strength. The stronger you are, the more resilient you are against disease and overall risk for mortality,” Phillips said.
Maintains Strong And Healthy Bones
Your bones need to stay challenged, just like your brain needs exercise to stay sharp. After about age 30, you start to lose bone density at a small percentage each year. Keep in mind, 80% of those affected with osteoporosis are women.
“Resistance training creates force on the bone and helps it stay strong. Your body cares about survival, not looking cute in a bikini – it has to adapt to survive so it’ll get stronger and bones will get stronger to endure these forces,” Schoenfeld said.
Improves Strength And Endurance
As you train and your body grows stronger, the effects will ricochet into other aspects of your physical activity.
“If your legs get stronger, then the amount of time you can spend on a walking challenge, on a treadmill, on a hike, will be longer. Even very good runners who do weight training actually improve their running efficiency,” Phillips said.
They’re able to run at the same speed while using a lower capacity of their leg strength.
Regulates Insulin And Reduces Inflammation
Strength training helps the body burn through glucose, greatly benefitting those with Type 2 diabetes that consistently need to manage blood sugar levels.
Lifting weights even aids in fighting off inflammation, a marker tied to many diseases. Studies have suggested that regular resistance training sessions, about twice a week, resulted in drops in inflammation in overweight women.
But the experts say, for now, there’s no clear reason why weightlifting helps with inflammation.
Boosts Metabolism And Promotes Fat Loss
Phillips uses a thermostat as an analogy: Imagine your body is a house and aerobic exercise cranks the heat for about 30 to 40 minutes while you work out. Resistance training, on the other hand, doesn’t turn the heat up as much but the burn lingers for a longer time.
“There’s a small advantage,” he said. Weight training, on a whole, however, can aid in weight maintenance and change your body’s composition.
Improves Posture, Sleep, Mood And Energy Levels
According to Brody Thorne, vice president of personal training at GoodLife Fitness, weight training comes with other bonuses, too.
“Besides the aesthetic, physiological and strength benefits, it affects just how we feel and how clearly we think. Weight training [has] proven to improve the quality of a person’s sleep,” Thorne told Global News.
“I’d say most folks feel pretty good about their mood and energy…I’ve not met a person who didn’t enjoy the changes they saw and especially women. Most non-exercisers who begin a program and can turn it into a habit begin to like, love, crave the gym,” Phillips said.
Improves Balance And Reduces Risk Of Falls
“Your muscle mass really deteriorates in old age. [Strength] is a clinical marker for functional dependence,” Schoenfeld said.
Keep in mind, falls are a major risk factor for the elderly.
“Nearly 50% of seniors who get a hip fracture from a fall don’t live past two years following the incident. With improved balance, they’d better equipped to regain equilibrium,” Schoenfeld said.
So there you have it! If weight training isn’t a part of your everyday routine, we just gave you seven great reasons to give it a shot! What’re you waiting for?
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