As December comes to an end, many Americans are reflecting on the past year and setting goals for the new year. Some of the most popular New Year’s Resolutions include:
- Lose weight
- Pay off debts
- Reduce stress
- Quit bad habits such as smoking
- Release bitterness, envy, or other negative emotions
While all of these goals are commendable, focusing on each one could conjure up negative thoughts. Resolutions are more achievable when they are stated positively, and strength training is one of the most positive activities one can do for improved physical, mental, and emotional health.
Toned and Chiseled
One of the most obvious benefits of strength training is improved physical appearance. Lifting weights will improve muscle definition, tone, and overall fitness. As chest, shoulder, and back strength increases, shoulders broaden forming an attractive triangular torso shape which makes the waistline appear much smaller in contrast. Core strengthening exercises tighten the abdominals into a chiseled six pack. Leg and hip flexor exercises firm the glutes and tone the quads, hamstrings, and calves. Strength training is vital for both a well-balanced, athletic appearance and for peak performance.
Strength training promotes fat loss. Since a pound of muscle takes up much less space than a pound of fat, the number on the scale may not budge much while clothing sizes are dropping. Natalie Jill has provided an excellent visual comparing fat to muscle here.
Those seeking weight loss often avoid weights because cardio burns more calories per minute, and they do not want to add bulk under their layers of fat. However, adding muscle is a key factor in shredding fat. The number of calories burned after the exercise is completed is almost twice as much for strength training as it is for cardio workouts. In addition, muscle burns significantly more calories than fat 24 hours per day. For example, one pound of fat burns approximately two calories per day while a pound of muscle will burn at least six calories per day. Conventional wisdom suggests that a pound of muscle can burn as much as 30-50 calories per day. Strength training can increase energy metabolism by 15% (Chris Iliades, MD, Everdayhealth.com).
Muscle and Bone Loss Reversal
By the age of 30, the body begins to lose both bone and muscle at a rate of approximately one percent per year. Troy Tuttle, MS, exercise physiologist at the Universityof Texas Medical School, recommends incorporating resistance exercises to reduce or even reverse this muscle and bone loss. Weight-bearing activities that work the bones and muscles against gravity keep bones healthy and ward off osteoporosis. Healthier bones and muscle also improve posture which helps prevent spinal degeneration.
Strong muscles can handle daily loads without injury. Lifting bags of groceries, laying sod, carrying laundry, moving furniture, and even the simplest daily tasks become more difficult as muscle atrophies over time. Doing these daily load bearing activities without perfect lifting technique and ideal posture can easily result in injury. Strength training makes the muscles more resistant to injury while improving balance, coordination, and posture. When resistance exercises are completed through a full range of motion, flexibility also improves. Chris Iliades, MD reported that strength training can reduce one’s risk of falling by up to 40 percent which is especially helpful for the elderly.
Disease Fighting, Anti-Aging Benefits
The benefits of strength training also influence anti-aging and disease prevention. Strength training has been shown to reduce arthritis pain in joints as well as medication in some cases (source). By improving bone density, strength training helps prevent bone fractures. Combined with a healthy diet, strength training supports glucose control for the management and prevention of type 2 diabetes. Weight lifting supports cardiovascular and respiratory health and even improves skin health for a more youthful appearance. Studies on testosterone replacement have shown that resistance training can boost levels of testosterone in men.
As with most intense workouts, strength training releases natural feel good endorphins that combat stress and improve mood. Strength training improves confidence-level and acts as an anti-depressant. It also improves sleep quality and overall well-being.
Effective strength training can be accomplished in less than two one-hour workouts per week. To determine the right strength-training program for you, consult a personal trainer.