We all know that exercise is a crucial component of a healthy lifestyle. But, unfortunately, the consensus often times end there. Ask ten different doctors, personal trainers, and health enthusiasts the best way to work out, and you will likely get ten different answers!
There are many distinct ways to get physically active; but the four broadest exercises categories are generally defined as cardio, flexibility, balance, and resistance. Each of these workout types has its advocates and opponents — but of all these, resistance training (AKA weight lifting), is probably the most controversial.
The reason why weight lifting is sometimes viewed negatively is that it causes one of the highest rates of injuries to participants. However, it is important to understand that most of these injuries are due to a few predictable and avoidable causes, such as improper form, lifting too quickly, lifting too much weight, or general overtraining. As long as you are careful, weightlifting can be just as safe as any other type of workout — and it offers a number of unique benefits. These include:
Be kind to your bones.
The well-controlled and relatively small amount of stress that weight lifting places on your bones can actually help to increase the strength and durability that this important organ offers.
Lose weight faster.
Cardio workouts such as running burn a surprisingly low amount of calories. (You would need to run an entire 5k just to work off a single Big Mac, for example.) Strength training can help supplement the calorie-burning effects of your cardio routine, while also helping to ensure that the weight that you lose is fat, not muscle.
When doing cardio alone, this is not always the case — and the potential for muscle loss is much greater for patients who are over the age of 40 and/or who are trying to lose weight quickly.
Weight lifting has been shown to trigger a significant reduction in stress, leading to an overall outlook that is significantly happier.
Stick to your diet.
When you perform resistance training, the effort you make causes muscle fibers to break down — which is actually a good thing! This process encourages your muscles to synthesize protein at a faster rate, which helps them to grow larger and stronger with a day or two of rest.
Because protein is crucial to recovery and strength-building, your body and brain will begin craving healthy, protein-rich foods rather than the junk food that we are naturally inclined to prefer. For this reason, weight training can help you stick to your diet.
- Improve heart health.Weight lifting helps to make your cardiovascular system more efficient — which reduces the amount of stress placed on your heart and the arteries that immediately surround it. One of the most dramatic effects that weight lifting has on heart health is a reduction in diastolic blood pressure, the bottom number in your blood pressure, which plays an important role in preventing heart attacks and strokes.
- Improve cognitive functions.From your memory to your productivity, to your ability to focus, weight lifting has been shown to improve a number of important mental functions — an important effect of workouts that can improve your life in many concrete ways!