Want to grow, strengthen, boost your metabolism and keep your body strong and mobile? The answer is simple: make weight training part of your weekly exercise plan. Resistance training might be closer than you think. There’s no need to go to the gym, you can do resistance training anywhere, from a park to your living room. Need more motivation? Here are some surprising body and health benefits.
1. Burn kilojoules for longer
People who have greater muscle mass burn more kilojoules throughout the day − even when they’re not exercising. This is because muscle requires energy to sustain it. In effect, the more muscle you have the more kilojoules you require.
2. Improved bone strength
Weight training increases bone strength, which is important for reducing the risk of osteoporosis. According to Osteoporosis Australia, from the age of 45, women may experience bone loss of around one to two per cent, per year, which can speed up to two to four per cent per year, after menopause. The good news? Bones respond to the strain of lifting weights by increasing their mass to become stronger.
3. Less stress and improved mood
Exercise releases endorphins, the body’s ‘feel good’ chemicals. Weight training can help women feel stronger and more in control. The nature of weight training is very controlled; you can focus on specific muscle groups and the activities themselves are often controlled movements. It is also an activity where you will notice the small gains quickly, like being able to lift more than you could two weeks ago. This sense of control results in other positive feelings like a sense of achievement, success and a strength within yourself.
4. Lower risk of diabetes
Muscles are the body’s largest consumer of glucose, explains Associate Professor David Dunstan, Head of Physical Activity at Melbourne’s Baker IDI Health and Diabetes Institute. “So a decline in muscle mass reduces the body’s capability to clear glucose efficiently,” he adds. This increases the risk of developing glucose intolerance and type 2 diabetes. In fact, American researchers have made a clear link between weight training regularly and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
5. A healthier heart
While aerobic activity is beneficial for heart health, Associate Professor Dunstan says a blend of aerobic and resistance exercise is best. Being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease, and working out with weights maintains muscle mass and metabolic rate to help keep body weight under control. Training with moderate weights also reduces blood pressure – another major risk factor for heart disease – according to research from the University of New Mexico.
6. Less chance of injuries
“Working different parts of the body as part of an exercise regimen gives you the best chance of avoiding injury,” says sports physiotherapist and former chairperson of Sports Physiotherapy Australia, Ivan Hooper. “Instead of running or walking every day, do some weight training in between so certain areas of your body are not overloaded.” Mixing up your exercise routine also helps to prevent boredom.
7. Reduced back pain
Slouching weakens muscles because they’re not being used properly. “Ligaments and discs in your back get loaded in an abnormal way and that leads to deterioration of those tissues,” says Hooper. People with sedentary jobs have a higher rate of back injury than labourers, who regularly use their back muscles. “Weight training helps strengthen the abdominal, lower back and gluteal muscles that support the spine,” he explains.
8. Increased brain health
Exercise, including weight training, keeps blood flowing to the brain and encourages the growth of new brain cells, according to the US Alzheimer’s Association. Associate Professor Dunstan adds that weight training helps maintain mobility so we can continue with the daily tasks that keep our brain ticking. “If you can’t physically do the things you’ve always done, it can be a real downer,” he says. “Staying strong and healthy improves overall wellbeing.”
9. Better sleep cycles
Researchers from the Seattle-based Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found that exercise improved sleep quality for women who exercised in the mornings for at least 225 minutes a week. The researchers concluded that morning exercise sets our body clock correctly, so we doze off more easily at night.