Seven Science-Backed Reasons Why You Should Be Lifting Weights

Ditch the dubious diet advice, suspicious supplements, and caffeine-packed pre-workouts. There’s a proven way to change your body from the inside out, and that’s strength training. Strength training will make your entire body stronger and revamp your skeletal, muscular, nervous, cardiovascular, and digestive systems to give you one, if not many of the body improvements you’re looking for. 

Here are 7 science-backed reasons why you should be lifting weights:

1. Boosted Metabolism

Your metabolism is designed to turn food into energy and get rid of waste. When a person’s metabolism is disrupted, they’re more likely to develop chronic conditions such as type II diabetes, cancer, and metabolic syndrome.

Your metabolic health is important. In addition to helping you move better and feel more capable, strength training can improve and increase your metabolism.

How much does strength training really increase metabolism? 

Well, a review of 18 studies found that resistance training increased resting metabolic rate, while cardio exercise had a much smaller metabolic impact. 

Strength training, unlike cardio, does two jobs at once: It burns excess body fat and increases muscle size and strength. Increased strength training leads to increased muscle mass, which means an increased metabolism. Plus, when you strength train, you’ll elevate your resting metabolic rate (the number of calories your body burns per day when your body is completely at rest). 

Strength training also prompts an “after-burn” effect. Research shows that your metabolism stays elevated for up to 38 hours after a strength training session. 

2. Better Bone Density

When it comes to long-term bone health, the stats aren’t rosy. If you’re over 50, you have a 1 in 2 chance of an osteoporosis-related fracture. But it’s never too late (or too early) to start boosting your bone density. 

As we age, our bones become more brittle and can break more easily. Our overall height decreases as the spine shortens. The breakdown of our joints can lead to inflammation, pain, stiffness, and deformity. 

Thankfully, strength training builds more than muscles. Many studies have found that strength training slows bone loss, and several show that it can even build bone and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

Strength training has bone benefits beyond those offered by aerobic weight-bearing exercises (like walking or running) — it strengthens the hips, spine, and wrists, which are most likely to fracture. 

The Best Strength Training Exercises for Building Bone Density

Resistance training, which tugs and pushes on your bones, nudges bone-forming cells to build denser bones. Add these five exercises to your routine to build bone mass safely: 

  • Bicep curls
  • Shoulder lifts
  • Hamstring curls
  • Squats
  • Standing hip abductions and extensions

3. Improved Cardiovascular System

The cardiovascular (or circulatory) system pumps blood from the heart to the lungs and the rest of the body before returning to the heart. This critical system delivers oxygen and nutrients to every cell in your body and removes carbon dioxide and waste. 

Interestingly, when it comes to your cardiovascular health, cardio workouts aren’t enough. Resistance training is your ticket to a healthy heart. We’ve known the musculoskeletal benefits of strength training for some time, but new research shows that weight training reduces your risk of diabetes, stroke, and heart disease—the leading cause of death in the United States.

What does the Research on Resistance Training Reveal?

When it comes to preventing heart disease, cardio doesn’t hold a candle to strength training. A 2019 study found that obese, sedentary adults who strength trained during the study saw a 32% reduction in pericardial adipose tissue (a fat deposit surrounding the heart most associated with heart disease and stroke). A second group of similar adults who completed aerobic exercise saw no change in that tissue.

It doesn’t take long to reap the rewards of resistance training. One large 10-year study found that those who performed any amount of strength training reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease by 17%. Another study concluded that even less than an hour per week of resistance training resulted in a significant decrease in cardiovascular disease (including heart attack and stroke) and increased longevity.

4. Mental Health Benefits

Next time you’re feeling anxious or depressed, pump iron for peace of mind. New research has found that resistance exercise significantly reduces depressive symptoms. A meta-analysis of 16 studies concluded that resistance training significantly improves anxiety symptoms for both healthy participants and participants with a physical or mental illness.

Change your brain with barbells

Have you ever heard of the hippocampus? This region of your brain is known for maintaining your long-term memory. But the hippocampus is also responsible for your mood regulation. 

Here’s the thing, though. If you have depression, your hippocampus shrinks up to 25% of its normal volume. Here’s where strength training comes in.

Strength training induces the release of a protein called BDNF (or brain-derived neurotrophic factor). The release of BDNF triggers the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus, restoring it to its full size and improving communication between brain cells! 

Make sure to move bigger muscles (like legs and core) for a bigger mood boost.

5. Strength and Energy to Tackle Everyday Tasks

Feeling sluggish and sleepy? It’s resistance training—that muscle-building, body-toning, and sweat-inducing workout—that can give you the strength and energy you need to thrive throughout the day. 

Thanks, hon, but I can carry it myself!

Wonder how an activity that requires a lot of strength and energy gives you more strength and energy? After each strength training session, your body repairs damaged muscle fibers, fusing them back together to form new protein strands. These new strands are thicker and more plentiful, resulting in stronger muscles.

Strengthening your body also improves posture and keeps you in better alignment throughout the day. Sitting or standing up straight allows your lungs to function better. This leads to deeper breathing and better blood flow so you don’t feel winded and sluggish. 

Strength training cranks up your endorphins, which not only improves your mood but gives you an increase in energy as well. It will also improve your sleep (even if you struggle with insomnia) so you’ll feel more refreshed the next day. 

6. Lower Risk of Injury

Resistance training improves the strength, range of motion, and mobility of your muscles, ligaments, and tendons. It reinforces strength around major joints like your knees, hips, and ankles which protects you against injury. These workouts enhance strength and stability, cutting down on injury-related falls in older adults.

Plus, learning good form in the gym will carry over to your home life. Next time you pick up a full laundry basket, your muscle memory will tell you to lift with your legs, not your back. 

Does strength training make a big enough difference that it’s worth it?

Hell, yeah. A meta-analysis covering dozens of studies on the subject found some pretty staggering stats. Resistance training decreased both sports-related injuries and overuse injuries by 33-50%. That gym membership just saved you from some big, future medical bills. 

7. Helps to Manage Blood Sugar Levels

Strength training improves our bodies’ ability to utilize insulin. It can even have a big impact on whether you develop diabetes. One study of more than 35,000 women found that those who performed resistance training had a 30% lower chance of being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes than those who did not. 

Pick the right workout plan for balanced blood sugar

Once again, the research points to resistance training as the superior workout for best results. One study in the Internal Journal of Cardiology shows that in people with type 2 diabetes, strength training can be more beneficial to blood sugar regulation than cardio.

If you’re currently monitoring your blood sugar levels, you may notice that different types of resistance training can affect your blood sugar a little differently during your workouts. High-rep workouts that elevate your heart rate may drop your blood sugar, while heavy-weight, low-rep workouts may cause your blood sugar to the same during the workout or temporarily move up slightly. 

The good news: They both have the same long-term benefit of significantly improved insulin sensitivity. Overall, weight training can help lower your blood sugar and potentially reduce your risk for health complications. 

What’s Your Next Move?

Doesn’t the science sound motivating? If you’re ready to start incorporating strength training into your life, plus other proven healthy habits, it’s time to join LEAN. Jump in our next LEAN session today and start reaping all these transforming health benefits.

If you’d like more practical tips and tricks for nutrition, fitness, wellness, and weight loss, sign up for my weekly newsletter too

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