Gone are the days when weight training (strength/resistance training) was seen as an odd, testosterone-filled activity for Eastern bloc weightlifters and narcissistic bodybuilders. Weight training has long since become mainstream as an important addition to the workout program for countless individuals.
People now understand that while cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise is a great way to burn fat, adding a little strength training to their workout earns extra calories every day. This means burning extra calories even while sleeping or sitting on the couch. In fact, for every additional pound of muscle gained, the body burns around fifty extra calories every day of the week.
But burning a few extra calories a week is not the only reason to weight train. The benefits derived from weight training are diverse and numerous, and I even surprised myself when I jotted them all down. Backed up with a tremendous volume of scientific literature, weight training should be an integral part of everyone’s workout routine.
Here are the benefits:
- Weight training raises your metabolism, which causes you to burn more calories twenty-four hours a day. Research shows that just two fifteen- to twenty-minute sessions a week is enough to gain all the potential health benefits of strength training.
- It can reverse the effects of sarcopenia, the age-related natural loss of muscle mass, strength, and function. After the age of thirty there is a loss of three to five per cent of muscle mass per decade, making day-to-day tasks gradually harder to perform. The gradual and natural loss of muscle mass is associated with a slowing metabolism, increasing the risk of weight gain.
- Weight training energizes you and has a positive effect on almost all of your 650-plus muscles.
- Weight training can lessen bone deterioration and build bone mass, preventing osteoporosis.
- Training provides injury protection. It improves muscular endurance, joint stability, balance, and coordination.
- Strength training will not develop big muscles on women, just toned muscles! This is because testosterone is a very important factor in the development of muscle shape. Since women have very low levels of this hormone, their muscles develop differently, meaning a little resistance training will not lead to a bulky, masculine physique, but rather a healthy, fit one.
- It improves strength, making the regular activities of daily living easier.
- Weight training reduces the incidence of low back injuries. Strong muscles, tendons, and ligaments are much more capable of withstanding stress, and the improved flexibility gained by strength training also reduces the likelihood of pulled muscles and back pain.
- Weight training decreases resting blood pressure.
- It decreases the risk of developing adult onset diabetes.
- Weight training decreases gastrointestinal transit time, reducing the risk for developing colon cancer.
- Training increases blood levels of HDL cholesterol (the good type).
- Weight training improves posture.
- Strength training improves immune system function.
- It lowers your resting heart rate, a sign of a more efficient heart.
- Weight training elevates your mood by releasing endorphins and giving you a euphoric feeling.
With so many benefits, no one should pass up the opportunity to incorporate weight training into their exercise routine. However, before jumping into a weight training program, there are a few important points to remember. First, consult a health-care professional before beginning weight training. Certainly, most doctors will tell you to use caution and listen to the trainers, but no doctor will eliminate exercise altogether for their patients—there are simply too many benefits from the exertion. However, it is prudent to make sure there are no impediments to beginning a new training routine. Second, there are many amazing personal trainers out there. Seek out a professional to help you put together a program that’s right for you such as a personal trainer or kinesiologist. And third, a little effort will reap big benefits. Enjoy the new training approach and don’t overdo it. Muscles grow and adapt while resting, so leaving a day or two between sessions is the best approach.
Feel healthier, look better, and enjoy the benefits that will last a lifetime.
Dr. Greg Uchacz, DC