Benefits of Weight Training: 5 Reasons Why You Should Lift Weights
Whatever you call it – weight lifting, strength training or pumping iron – muscle building helps you look better, live longer and stay happier.
Do you work out 30 minutes a day, five days a week? Good for you. Routine activity, such as brisk walking, puts you in line with government recommendations. If you’re resting on your laurels the other two days, you’re only doing half the job. Strength training your major muscle groups – chest, shoulders, arms, abdomen, back, hips and legs – at least twice a week offers major benefits, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Here are five reasons to give your workout routine a lift (or curl).
At rest, muscle burns roughly three times more calories than body fat. But, scientists haven’t pinpointed a true number, says Keerthy Krishnamani, M.D., a HAP-affiliated family doctor in St. Clair Shores. Adding muscle amps up your metabolism, making it a bit simpler to keep weight gain at bay.
Pumping iron can pump up your heart health. A Harvard University study of healthy men found that those who spent 20 minutes a day weight training had less of an age-related gain in belly fat than men who spent the same amount of time sweating through cardio. That’s vital, because a spare tire raises your risk of getting heart disease. Strength training also lowers blood pressure.
Other Harvard research suggests that strength training helps control blood sugar and sensitizes the body to insulin. This can help cut the risk of diabetes. It can also help lung strength in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases like emphysema and asthma.
Offset age-related muscle loss
Around age 30, your body loses about one-third of a pound of muscle a year, says Tufts University. After age 50, muscle strength lowers too. Have you heard of sarcopenia? Researches are putting more focus on the disease, dubbed “the osteoporosis for muscle.” It can drastically limit daily function and lead to falls.
Boost bone density
Osteoporosis, which weakens the skeleton, isn’t just a women’s disease. It hits men too, though it happens less often, more slowly and later in life.
For most people, bone mass peaks in their 30s before slowly declining, says the Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center. Strength training “definitely helps bones,” Krishnamani says, “along with good dietary habits.”
Improve quality of life
Besides strengthening muscles and bones, weight-bearing exercise shores up connective tissues such as tendons and ligaments. This helps prevent injury, eases lower back pain and makes daily tasks, like hauling groceries, simpler. “It’s not so much about bulk as strength, endurance and power,” Krishnamani says.
Plus, studies show strength training improves mood and sharpens thinking in older adults and lets people stay independent and active longer. “Good functionality – that’s the key,” says Krishnamani.
Whether you’re new to strength training or want to boost your efforts, Keerthy Krishnamani, M.D., a HAP-affiliated family doctor, offers this advice:
Strength training isn’t just about barbells and weight machines. Calisthenics, yoga, Pilates, resistance bands and even heavy gardening can help you build muscle. Check with your doctor before starting a new workout routine.
Watch your form
“Proper lifting technique trumps everything,” Krishnamani says. Spring for a few sessions with a personal trainer. “Seek help to make sure you’re not making mistakes,” he says. “Injury prevention should be high on your list of goals.”
Hit the hay
During the deepest stages of sleep, muscles relax, blood flow increases, tissues repair, energy is restored and hormones are released that regulate growth and muscle building, says the National Sleep Foundation.
Shake it up
Do protein shakes and other supplements lead to bigger biceps or just a lighter wallet? Here’s the scoop.
There is nothing wrong with consuming a quality protein or amino acid supplement to aid muscle building as long as you don’t overdo it, says Keerthy Krishnamani, M.D., a HAP-affiliated family physician.
Getting too much protein, for example, can stress your kidneys and weaken bones. Run any supplements by your doctor first to ensure that the formula is safe for you.
But if you don’t want to deal with powders, pills, bars and shakes, you can skip them, Krishnamani says. A healthy diet generally provides everything you need. Include a balance of lean protein for building muscle and healthy carbs for fueling workouts and other activities.