Weight Training: One of the best things you can do to improve your health and longevity

There’s much made of the health benefits of cardiovascular training, but weight training is often overlooked.  It seems to have a reputation for only being done by those wanting to “look good” without having any “functional” use.  Well there’s nothing more functional than having muscle and being strong.

Want to lose fat? Lift weights. Want to get toned? Lift weights. Want to eat more and maintain your weight? Lift weights. Want to get better at your chosen sport? Lift weights. Want to reduce injury? Lift weights.  Want to increase your cardiovascular abilities? Lift weights. Want to live longer? Lie on the sofa and eat pizza…wait, no, that one is still “Lift Weights”.

Weight training is a great calorie burner

Fat loss is all about being in a calorie deficit.  You can do this by reducing your food intake or increasing your activity, or a mixture of both.  Most people go straight to adding in some cardio such as running or cycling.

You might burn more calories doing cardio than weight training in some circumstances, but practically speaking you could be better off weight training. Let’s face it, cardio can be boring, and it’s easy to lose interest.  If you’re not already fit, you may struggle to do it for any length of time. With weight training, because you work various parts of the body with different moves and take rests in between, it’s easy for an hour to pass without even thinking about it.  So, what’s going to be the biggest calorie burn? The hour of whole-body weight training, or the twenty-minute lack lustre jog around the block?

Weight training keeps your metabolism up

Weight training stimulates muscle protein synthesis (MPS), i.e. muscle growth.  Muscle is metabolically active, meaning that just having it burns calories, so obviously you want to hold onto it for fat loss.  More significantly, the more muscle you have, the more you’ll be able to do in your workouts.  All of this contributes to a higher total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).  And that means you’ll still be able to lose fat without resorting to living off a super low-calorie diet of courgetti and whatever cauliflower incarnation is now deemed to be an acceptable substitute for pasta and bread.

It gets you toned

Being “toned” just means having visible muscle.  To be able to see it, you need to lose fat, but if you don’t weight train there won’t be any muscle tone there to see.  The key is to lift enough weight (tip – it’s not 0.5kg dumbbells for 1000 reps).  Most people underestimate how heavy you need to lift to even look a bit toned.  It is not easily achieved through cardio alone.  That’s not to say you need stop your cardio all together but treat it as a condiment rather than the main ingredient.

It can help prevent injury

As you go about your daily life, your habits, movement patterns and any regular sports you perform; make certain parts of your body strong and others not.  It’s these muscle imbalances which could potentially lead to injuries later down the line.  By following a sensible weight training routine, executed with good form, it’s been shown you can mitigate this by staying strong and mobile in all areas and ranges of motion.

It can be used as a mode of cardio

Cardiovascular exercise is essentially anything that gets your heart rate up over a period of time.  Don’t fancy that cold rainy run around the park? Just can’t seem to master the grapevine in aerobics? Then weight training is a great alternative.  Your traditional weight training session might involve relatively heavy loads of 4-8 reps with rests between sets, but you can easily make this more of a cardiovascular session by including more sets and reps at lower loads, resting for less time in between sets.  By using your whole body, it can be more time efficient too.

It’s suitable for everyone

Weight training isn’t just for the bodybuilders.  Everyone, no matter your age, sex or ability level can reap the rewards.  For the older generation, weight training is invaluable in improving your bone health by increasing bone density which can protect against breaks from falls, as well as helping to manage blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease and the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Additionally, it’s very safe to do.  Compared to a high intensity cardio workout where you’re jumping around the place, which may not be physically possible or advisable for some of the population; weight training done with good form is low risk and doesn’t require a great deal of skill to get started.  For women particularly, who naturally carry less muscle mass, strength training is even more important to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

It’s even beneficial for children, provided it’s included as part of a well-balanced exercise program.  With a few limitations as per the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) guidelines, it can be a great way to get them into sports, and stand them in good stead for lifelong healthy habits.

In short, it will help you live a fuller and longer life.  And that’s just the physical side of weight training.  Speak to anyone who’s taken it up, and they’ll tell you how they feel more confident and capable in everyday life, can manage stress better, and have learnt so much else through the process which they can then apply to everyday life.  So, what are you waiting for?


FreeGym Blogger Legend. Personal Trainer at Fitology. Powerlifting Level 1 Coach.

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