Story by Lauren Abbott, TSET Healthy Living Program Specialist
Often when people think of weight lifting, they picture the OSU football team pumping iron below the West End Zone getting bulked for the season, or the world’s strongest man competition with people pulling trains and picking up giant boulders. While these things do count as weight lifting, there are also milder forms that everyone should try to incorporate into their workouts.
Many people stay away from weight lifting because they fear they will get too bulky, they are afraid they will get hurt, or they simply do not know where to start. While there are ways to lift weight in order to gain mass, it is also very possible to lose weight from weight lifting while toning muscles, not growing them. It is possible to get hurt during weight lifting, just like any exercise, but as long as you are being careful, progressing at an appropriate rate, and avoiding exercises that are too advanced or that you do not know how to do, no harm should occur.
There are many studied and verified benefits of lifting weights, including:
- You’ll live longer.
While most forms of regular exercise can add years to your life, strength training specifically has major benefits. As we get older, the more muscle mass we have, the less likely we are to die prematurely.
- For better sleep.
Regular exercisers, especially those who push themselves, report the best sleep, and weight lifting is no exception.
- Your progress is noticeable.
There’s nothing that feels quite as rewarding as setting a goal and reaching it. If you’re new to strength work, you’ll find that a weight you once thought was impossible to lift starts to feel easy sooner than you might imagine. Soon your muscles are more toned and you just feel more sturdy.
- Protect your bones.
Weight-bearing exercise and particularly strength training is thought to increase bone density, reducing the risk of fractures and breaks, especially among older adults.
- Boost your balance.
One major cause of bone breaks as we age is falling. Improved strength and balance and fewer falls also may help to protect against osteoporosis.
- It can make you happier.
Like many forms of physical activity, a little lifting can work wonders for your mental health. Strength training has been linked to reduced anxiety and depression symptoms as well as improved self-esteem. It may even give your brainpower a boost.
- Look better in your skinny jeans.
Now, we don’t suggest you lift weights (or do any exercise, for that matter) solely for appearance because health benefits are more important, but when it comes to slimming down, endless hours on the elliptical may not be getting you any closer to the results you desperately seek. In fact, building muscle may help you lose fatmore effectively than simply doing cardio.
- Burn more calories.
Simply having more muscle on your frame helps your body burn up extra calories, even when you’re sitting completely still.
- You can do it in under 30 minutes.
Adding strength work to your regular exercise routine doesn’t have to eat up the tiny bit of free time you had left in the day. In fact, lifting is one area where more is not always better, around 30 to 60 minutes a week is plenty.
- You don’t have to go to the gym.
We’re using the term “lifting weights,” but the world of strength and resistance training includes a whole host of options outside of what you’d find at the gym. You can “lift weights” with cans and jars you find in your kitchen. You can “lift weights” using only your body. You can buy a pair of five-pound dumbbells and lift along with a DVD in the comfort of your own living room. In fact, if you’re new to strength training, many moves are safer if performed with just your bodyweight until you can get the hang of perfect form. Plus, many of those machines at the gym aren’t adjustable enough for the wide range of bodies that use them.
- Run faster…
Or swim longer or bike harder or get better at just about any other athletic endeavor you fancy. Why? Because you’ll be cultivating stronger, more powerful muscles to put to good use. Also, strength training can help prevent injuries in other athletic pursuits, by helping correct muscle imbalances that throw your form out of whack.
- Help your heart.
Despite the name, cardio isn’t the only form of exercise with cardiovascular benefits. A resistance training routine has been shown to lower blood pressure, in some cases as effectively as taking medication. The American Heart Association recommends that adults aim for at least two strength training sessions a week.
If you are still stuck on how to get started, search resistance exercises or weight lifting exercises on the internet to find a whole slew of available workouts with videos or pictures to help. Start slowly and build up as your body adjusts. Enjoy the wonderful benefits and remember that weight lifting is for everyone!