Sometimes called weight bearing activities, strength training exercises technically include any activity that supports your body’s weight, such as walking, jogging, and dancing. These are extremely important to overall health, as strength-building exercises help you burn fat and improve bone health.
However, you should also consider incorporating weight training into your exercise regimen. Lifting weight to help build muscle takes these benefits even further.
Why Weight Training?
There are two basic types of exercise: aerobics and weight training. Both are highly beneficial to the body, with doctors recommending you get at least 30 minutes per day, five days per week of regular aerobic activity.
Some people avoid weight training because it makes them think of bulked up bodies readying for the Mr. Universe pageant. In reality, weight training does not require developing a body builder physique and hours at the gym to reap the benefits.
These benefits start with enormous improvements to bone density. Performing weight bearing exercises (even walking) stimulates the cells that build bone, due to the strain placed on these tissues. When your bones receive this kind of stress, they adapt and grow.
Weight training also helps improve the symptoms of osteoarthritis, reducing pain and improving function. In addition, it improves blood flow to the brain, promoting a number of factors that help improve cognition. You may also gain improved insulin sensitivity, especially when you combine weight training with regular aerobic activity.
Finally, building muscles in your core (back and abdomen) and legs helps improve balance and stability. This reduces risk of injury, as improved strength and balance reduce likelihood of falls.
Weight Training Burns More Calories
One thing to remember about exercise is that it continues to burn calories and improve metabolism long after your workout ends. This is true for both aerobic and weight bearing exercises, but the effect is greater for people working out with weights. Aerobic activities increase metabolism for around 18 hours after your workout, while weight trainers enjoy these benefits for around 24 hours. In fact, studies have shown that, the more weight you lift, the longer that enhanced calorie-burning period lasts. This means that fewer repetitions at a higher weight capacity burned more calories than performing more repetitions at a lower weight capacity.
Exercise and Mental Health
Studies show that exercise, both aerobic and anaerobic, improves symptoms of depression. These effects last beyond the end of the workout, as well, with subjects showing marked improvement of their symptoms at the 12-week mark as well as at the 12-month mark. These results are found both in studies examining the benefits of moderate aerobic activity as well as in subjects placed in a weight training program.
Subjects who suffered moderate clinical depression and underwent an exercise regimen in lieu of medication enjoyed long-term benefits similar to the benefits experienced by the medication-only group. In fact, at the 10-month follow-up, these patients had better reduction in symptoms than the medication-only group. The only period when medication-only patients enjoyed greater improvements was in the period at the beginning of the study, as the impact of medication was more immediate than that of exercise.
Weight Training and Heart Health
Aerobic activity is frequently touted as an important part of cardiovascular health, and for good reason: it works. Though strength training is important and beneficial, aerobic activity is vital to overall health. However, working out with weights also benefits your heart.
Weight bearing exercises cause your muscles to generate more force, including your heart, which works harder to pump out blood during your workout. The way weight training builds your muscles is by first slightly damaging them, creating tiny tears within the muscle fibers. Your muscles are sore over the next day or two because they’re repairing themselves, which causes them to grow. The same thing happens with your heart, which makes it stronger and more efficient.
Additional Benefits of Weight Training
Adding weight training to your exercise regimen helps lower risk of diabetes thanks to the improvements in glucose metabolism that occur as proteins transport blood glucose to your muscles for energy.
Dialysis patients and those with chronic kidney disease also benefit, thanks to improved blood flow and phosphate removal.
Finally, your brain functions better when you incorporate regular weight training (at least one to two times per week). The result is better cognitive function, likely due to the production of proteins that promote brain tissue growth.
Regular exercise is vital to overall health and wellness. Your goal is at least 150 minutes each week of aerobic activity, with at least one weekly session performing strength-training exercises. You’ll feel better, look better, and live longer.