The moment we hear of weight training, our mind pictures an oiled up bodybuilder flexing his crazily defined muscles. And believe me, this is just one of the misconceptions stigmatizing strength training.
“ I like to look lean”
“ I am a woman, I don’t want to get buff”
“Dude, cardio is the best exercise”
“Doesn’t strength training require special (read: expensive) equipment.”
The truth is – each of these statements is far away from reality.
What exactly is Strength training then?
Strength training (also known as weight training or resistance training) is a set of bodyweight exercises such as pushups, crunches, squats (or sometimes involving tools like dumbells and resistance bands).
They exert muscles by using resistance and help build muscle mass, bone density, and endurance among several physiological benefits. (1)
But I can lose weight by cardio too, then why weight training?
There are infinite ways to lose weight (Ok, I may be exaggerating but you get the point).
Running, cycling, walking, calorie deficits, the list goes on.
But one major difference between strength training and all others is – The Muscle mass.
When we lose weight, we lose muscle as well, but not if we are strength training. These bodyweight exercises, in fact, build muscle, which helps us in everyday tasks, boosts metabolism, and burns stubborn fat.
“You can lose weight quickly [by] doing other stuff, but you’re not going to keep it off [in the] long term if you don’t maintain lean muscle mass,” said Kelly Drew, an exercise physiologist with the American College of Sports Medicine.
Strength training comes in various forms and intensities and should be a part of everyone’s exercise routine.
Want to know why?
Here are 7 big reasons why exercise is better with weights –
1. To maintain all body strength
Think of weight training like Soduko but for the body. It applies a resisting force on the bones and muscles, challenging them to do get better and bigger.
Did you know, after puberty, you begin to lose about 1 percent of your bone and muscle strength every year? (2)
“One of the best ways to stop, prevent, and even reverse bone and muscle loss is to add strength training to your workouts,” advises Troy Tuttle, MS, an exercise physiologist at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston.”
Doing just 30 minutes of high-intensity resistance and impact training, twice a week, improves lean muscle mass, slows down aging, and increases bone density especially in postmenopausal women.
2. To lose weight without starving yourself
We tend to equate weight loss with getting fit. And one of the easiest ways we know of losing weight is – starving ourselves. The truth is eating less (or not eating right) will leave us feeling stressed and undernourished.
An effective way to lose weight (without depriving ourselves) is increasing our resting metabolism – The rate at which our body consumes calories throughout the day. And that is exactly what strength training does.
Neal Pire, CSCS, an exercise physiologist and the national director of wellness services at Castle Connolly Private Health Partners in New York City, says, “A good resistance workout increases your excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). Resistance or strengthening exercise keeps your metabolism active after exercising, much longer than after an aerobic workout.”
3. Improve body mechanics
Age rusts the strength and flexibility of connective tissues, tendons, and muscles. It can also lead to conditions like Sarcopenia, especially if you are over 30. It impacts our balance, coordination, and posture, making the simplest of tasks like lifting groceries, catching a bus, climbing stairs, difficult.
Weight training slows down the aging process, strengthens these little soldiers, prevents lean muscle mass, making sure we go through our lives with ease, and no injuries.
4. Fight chronic diseases like a superhero
Inflammation is the mother of most of the chronic diseases such as Arthritis, Type II Diabetes, and even Cancer (3). Strength training increases the production of anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10, making sure you have the entire arsenal to ward off (or manage) these chronic conditions. (4)
5. To boost happy hormones
The pace of our everyday lives leaves behind a residue of fatigue, stress, and anxiety. Picking up weights releases endorphins and is an instant mood booster. (As good as eating a bar of chocolate).
“All exercise boosts mood because it increases endorphins,” Pire says. According to a 2014 study published in Frontiers in Psychology, neurochemical and neuromuscular response to strength training offers further evidence that it has a positive effect on the brain. (5)
6. Pumps energy into the heart
Our heart works constantly. To make sure it is healthy, add strength training into your workout regime. It cuts down the visceral fat, lowers the triglyceride levels, and maintains blood pressure. According to a new Iowa State University study, lifting weights for less than an hour a week may reduce your risk for a heart attack or stroke by 40 to 70 percent.
7. Look your best
Every one of us wants to look our best. Wear strength training and your body confidence will shine. The muscles will be toned, smiles will be bigger, and clothes will fit better. According to the 2015 Journal of Extension study of middle-aged and older women, consistent strength training improves body image and perceived physical appearance – no matter the actual aesthetic results. (6)
Sold yet? Pick up those (or buy them first) and start squatting your way to a healthier, happier, fitter you.