You probably have heard how important exercise is for you. Consistent exercise is a key factor in maintaining physical and mental health, especially as we age. But different types of exercise have different effects. Even just walking every day is helpful. But to get the most benefits possible from your exercise time, consider incorporating weight resistance exercise (also called strength training) into your routine.
Protect Your Body From Injury and Degeneration
Resistance training creates stronger muscles, which increases overall strength and endurance. It also strengthens connective tissue and makes joints more stable. This improves coordination and balance. Greater strength and flexibility in the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints means that we are less likely to be injured in the normal activities of life. And strength training can reduce the risk of falling by 40 percent.
Weight resistance training also increases bone density. This can help prevent osteoporosis, arthritis, and other types of bone decay. It also reduces the intensity of injury if falls do happen.
Resistance training builds lean muscle. As you build more lean muscle, your resting metabolism rate increases. This means that not only do you burn calories while you are exercising, but you burn more calories all the time. Your resting metabolism increases over time for each pound of muscle you gain, you will burn up to 50 more calories each day.
Strength training also improves the way that your body processes food, including sugar. The increased work of the muscle tissue means that more glucose (sugar) is burned instead of being stored as fat.
Cultivate Lean Muscle Tone
The most obvious benefit of resistance training is increased muscle tone. While cardiovascular exercise can improve, well, cardiovascular health, it barely scratches the surface when it comes to muscle tone. Large amounts of steady state cardio (i.e. running on a treadmill for hours a week) can actually reduce lean muscle mass.
If you are woman you need not be worried that strength training will make you too bulky. Women do not have as much of the hormone that causes men to develop bulky muscles when they lift heavy weights.
Because of its metabolism-boosting properties, strength training is crucial to support fat burning. And because you are working your muscles more when you do resistance training, it ensures that what you burn while exercising is fat not muscle tissue. Studies have found that, on average, a woman who strength trains in a way that challenges her muscles to the point of fatigue two or three times a week will lose at least three and a half pounds of fat in two months.
All types of exercise have a beneficial effect on mental health. Exercise release endorphins and reduce tension, stress, and anxiety. But strength training in particular has been shown to be very effective at reducing depression, partly because it can increase confidence in addition to positively affecting brain chemistry.
Resistance training cultivates endurance, focus, coordination, lung capacity, and performance all key elements for great sexual performance.
Increase Mental Clarity
Strength training has been shown to help improve cognitive functioning, especially in older people. This translates to better planning, focus, decision-making, and overall mental clarity.
Reduce Cancer Risk
Resistance training reduces oxidative stress, reducing the presence of free radicals in the body. It also boosts the immune system, lowers insulin levels, and can trigger apoptosis (the process by which cells die when they are supposed to), all of which reduce overall cancer risk.
You might already know how much easier it is to fall asleep on the days when you have exercised. But strength training in particular is especially helpful for reducing insomnia and helping to prevent sleep apnea. Just be sure to complete your workout at least two hours before bedtime.
More Strength for Daily Activities
Strength is strength, and cultivating more strength by lifting weights will make it easier to lift everything you need to in your life. It becomes a lot easier to move laundry, dishes, books, groceries, and even navigate uneven sidewalks or your stairs when you are stronger. And resistance training improves balance, coordination, and flexibility, which will make you more graceful in all areas of life.
It is important that you always work out with proper form to prevent injury. If you do not know how to lift weights safely, it is worth it to work with a personal trainer or attend classes for a few months until you know how to protect yourself. Your weight resistance workouts should be challenging enough to cause muscle fatigue. That means that you can only do 6 to 12 repetitions of each exercise before you have to take a break. And muscles need time to recover, so always allow at least two days of rest after you work a particular muscle group.
Weight resistance training is a valuable addition to any healthy lifestyle to support the metabolism, immune system, and overall wellbeing.