When most people think about weight lifting, they imagine super swollen gym bros lifting hundreds of pounds of weight in the gym every day. In truth, the healthy amount of weights for the average person looks nothing like that (no knock on our weight-loving fam though!) People who add weight lifting to their exercise program a mere two days out of the week can begin to see the benefits. And once you’ve integrated a little weight into your routine, you’ll see what the gym bros have known all along. Weight lifting carries all kinds of physical and psychological benefits.
Boost your capacity to burn fat
You’ve probably seen several sources that cite weight lifting as a magic bullet to fight fat accumulation—and, unfortunately, that is mostly hype. While it’s not a total fat-busting solution, building muscle does improve your body’s ability to burn fat more efficiently. Essentially, your body burns more calories maintaining muscle mass than it does maintaining fat. It is estimated that the average person will burn 5-6 calories per pound of muscle at rest, every day. It’s not astronomical but a lift is a lift (pun 100% intended.) The boost in metabolism that accompanies regular weight training isn’t too bad either.
To start, add strength training into your workout program a couple of times a week. Start out small with lighter weights and shorter reps. We must add here that this is a time where caution is encouraged. Accelerating the amount of weight too quickly can lead to serious injuries. Nerd Fitness has a great strength training 101 guide to help you establish good form and introduce proper weights for your fitness level. Graduate to heavy weights carefully, but do learn to challenge yourself too.
Improve performance and endurance
Weight lifting, also referred to as strength training, falls under two categories: isometric and isotonic. The purpose of strength training is to condition and tone your muscles using resistance. With isometric training, your body is working against a stationary object, such as a push-up against the floor. Isotonic training uses range of motion in addition to resistance to build muscle mass. Through isotonic training, like weight lifting, the muscle contracts consistently against the weight being lifted to build muscle mass.
It is estimated that by the time an individual reaches the age of 50, they have already begun experiencing muscle deterioration. Strength training combats muscle loss while also improving endurance, posture, flexibility and balance. Strength training can also reduce the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis, increase bone density, and even aide diabetics in controlling their blood glucose.
Attain mental wellness
Endorphins, which are produced by the pituitary gland, are known as the body’s natural pain killer. When your body is working to lift weight, it is also releasing endorphins that call out to the reward system in your brain to say “YES! This is great. Please keep doing this.” I know, the brain is a funny thing. As you continue in your exercise program, your mind is being reshaped to enjoy and thrive on exercise. People in regular exercise programs report a greater sense of well-being, improvement in depression-related symptoms, and they also sleep better at night. All thanks to a chemical in our brain that works to drives us make better decisions for our health and actually feel good about it.