Lift Up to Lean Out: 10 Reasons to Start Lifting Weights

Article posted in: Fitness
lifting weights

Don’t let the weight room (or the large, sweaty dudes lifting weights) intimidate you. Picking up heavy stuff and putting it down can increase muscular strength and endurance, of course, but it can also improve cardiovascular function, metabolism, lower heart disease risk, and improve your “psychosocial well-being.”

Those benefits of strength training aren’t the opinions of just anyone: They’re the conclusions of the American Heart Association, in their 2000 position paper on resistance exercise. No wonder in addition to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends two strength-training sessions be done each week.

Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise regimen. Then get in there! Start lifting, and get ready to reap these 10 benefits.

1. You’ll live longer.

Muscular strength has been associated with a decreased risk of “all-cause mortality”—death from anything. That’s the conclusion of a review of 23 different studies published in 2015 in the European Journal of Internal Medicine. So if you take a little time to lift, you could have a little more time in your life!

2. You’ll use your time better.

Not only will you get more time, but you could get more out of the time in each day. People who exercise are about 15 percent more productive on days they work out, according to a 2005 study. So by spending 30 minutes in the gym, you could get 8 hours of work done in just under seven hours—giving you an extra half-hour overall to do more enterprise work or knock off early.

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3. Your brain will work better.

This may explain the productivity boost: Multiple studies have shown that resistance training enhances cognitive function. In one Canadian study of senior women, lifting just once or twice per week for a year increased scores on tests of memory, attention, and conflict resolution by as much as 12.6 percent.

4. You’ll sleep better.

When 40 men aged 65 to 80 performed a resistance training session, they slept better than men who didn’t: In a study of this group published in 2012, these men woke up fewer times—that is, they slept more soundly—the day they lifted than on the days they didn’t.

5. Your diet will actually be EASIER to follow.

In a study from the University of Pittsburgh, 169 overweight adults were assigned a training regimen of three workouts per week. While you might think exercising makes you hungry, and you’ll eat more, researchers found the opposite: Those who didn’t do their workouts ate more than the calories they were allotted. The authors suggest that diet and exercise complement each other to help you stay on track.

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6. You’ll feel less anxiety.

Besides its physical benefits, lifting comes with a host of mental health benefits: Resistance training has been shown to reduce anxiety symptoms in healthy adults, reduce depression symptoms in those diagnosed with clinical depression, reduce overall fatigue and boost self-esteem.

7. You’ll burn more calories when you’re not exercising.

When you perform low-intensity cardio exercise like walking, you burn calories—but when you stop, the burning stops, too. Strength training keeps you burning: In one study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, women who lifted burned 100 more calories in the 24 hours following a strength session. And the heavier they went, the more they burned: Another study from Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that women burned nearly twice the calories in the 2 hours following their workout when they lifted heavier weights for fewer repetitions compared to when they lifted lighter loads for more reps.

8. You’ll have stronger bones.

Lifting weights puts stress on your bones—bending them slightly and creating tiny breaks. But these breaks are good: Just as the small tears in muscles created by exercise heal and make you stronger, these micro-fractures in your bones heal, increasing bone density. In one study, those who performed resistance training for 16 weeks increased their hip bone density and elevated their blood levels of bone growth markers by 19 percent.

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9. You’ll improve your blood pressure.

The act of strength training can actually increase your blood pressure during the workout—another reason to talk to your doctor before beginning a resistance program—but it can help lower your blood pressure overall after you’re done. In a study from Appalachian State University, researchers found that 45 minutes of moderate-intensity lifting decreased blood pressure by as much as 20 percent—as much of a drop as patients get by taking an anti-hypertension medication.

10. And you don’t have to do it every day.

You don’t have to turn your world upside-down to get the health benefits of strength training: In a study published this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that even if you only work out once or twice per week, you can still lower your overall risk of death. The researchers found that all-cause mortality was 30 percent lower for active people compared to inactive ones—even when the active people did their 75 to 150 minutes of exercise in one or two sessions per week.