Benefits of Weight Lifting
The first thing you see when you open up a fitness magazine is usually extremely toned men and women. It’s a common goal for most, especially those who spend quite a bit of time at the gym.
Research shows that not only can weightlifting improve your body composition and give you a toned appearance, it can also improve your overall health and make you a happier person. Weightlifting can help you burn fat, reduce your risk of diabetes, prevent back pain and even help you fight depression. Read on to find out all the benefits of weightlifting.
#1: Muscle Burns Fat
Want to eat that extra piece of pizza without feeling guilty? Lift weights. In study published in the February 2008 issue of Cell Metabolism, Boston University researchers demonstrated that type II muscle fibers, the kind you build when you lift weights, improve whole-body metabolism.
The researchers genetically engineered mice with a type II muscle growth-regulating gene that could be turned on and off. After eight weeks on a high-fat, high-sugar diet, they activated the gene, but did not change the mice’s diet. Without any change in activity level, the mice lost total body fat. The researchers concluded that an increase in type II muscle fibers can reduce body fat without changes to diet and might be effective in the fight against obesity. All in all, muscle burns fat. Plain and simple.
#2: Reduce Depression
When it comes to the effects of exercise on depression, aerobic exercise, such as running and swimming, has been much more extensively researched than anaerobic exercise, such as weightlifting. But as one study reports, there’s little difference between the two in terms of how well they relieve symptoms of depression.
A study published in The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in 2004, followed 40 women and found similar results in those who ran and those who lifted weights for eight weeks. In addition, there was no difference in the percentage of participants in the two groups who remained non-depressed during follow-up. In short, weight lifting can help reduce symptoms of depression and improve your overall quality of life.
#3: Prevent Back Pain
If you work in an office, you know that sitting at your desk all day can wreak havoc on your lower back, leading to stiffness and pain. Weightlifting may help strengthen the muscles of your core — those that support your spine — to lessen the discomfort and undo some of the damage caused by sitting all day. But what are the best exercises?
I recommend focusing on hip extensions, essentially the opposite motion of the hip flexion that occurs while sitting. Squatting, step-ups and hip extensions are a few examples. Start with just your body weight and then add resistance to increase the challenge. I also recommend abdominal exercises such as planking.
#4: Improved Balance
Aside from your major muscle groups, like your pecs and hamstrings, your body has various smaller muscles called stabilizer muscles. These muscles do exactly what you would think: They help stabilize you.
Although you might lift weights to flatter your flexing muscles, each time you work out you’re indirectly targeting those little muscles that help keep you upright and take care of everyday tasks such as balancing on one foot to reach a high shelf or stopping yourself from falling on an icy surface. This is especially important for people as they age. Improved balance helps to reduce injuries from falling.
#5: Better Blood Sugar Control
Whether you have diabetes or risk factors, weightlifting can help regulate blood glucose. Researchers of the study report that weight training encourages the growth of white muscle, which aids in lowering blood glucose because it uses glucose for energy.
Mammals, like poultry, have different colors of muscle ranging from red to white. Red muscle, which uses fat oxidation to generate energy, is more prevalent in endurance athletes, such as marathon runners, while white muscle is abundant in weightlifters and sprinters.
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Author: Chris Friesen
Chris Friesen is a gym owner, personal trainer, online fitness coach and former “fat dad” living on 60 beautiful acres of countryside in rural Canada.
He specializes in helping busy parents shed body fat quickly, WITHOUT becoming gym rats OR giving up the foods they love to eat.
In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and 3 kids, sitting in his hot tub out in the snow with a glass of bourbon, and yelling at his (many) misbehaving barn cats.