Whether you are in the beginning stages of your fitness journey or have been endurance training for years, I am a huge advocate of strength training and would strongly recommend adding it to your workout routine. On a personal level, weight lifting has given me so much confidence. It is hard to beat the feeling I get after lifting a heavier weight than I ever thought I could lift. I feel strong and self-assured. I appreciate my body for the weight it can lift, and I feel grateful that I took the time to make myself stronger, both mentally and physically. The most rewarding moment I have had with weight lifting was when I realized that I wanted my muscles to grow. This meant that after years of trying to shrink my body, I was making an intentional decision to grow it. That day was monumental in shifting my thoughts from exercising for weight loss to exercising for strength, health, and happiness. I owe that realization to weight lifting and for that, it will always hold a special place in my heart.
I’ve given you the reasons why I love it, but I want you to decide to add strength training to your routine because research shows it is good for you. A meta-analysis identified many of the proven benefits associated with resistance training, including increased muscle mass, strength, stamina, power, and body-muscle composition (Yu-Kai Chang et al., 2012). In addition, it enhances cognitive function, particularly as we age, and can reduce the risk of many diseases such as coronary heart disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis, and osteoarthritis.
Another study had 25- to 30-year-old women with minimal physical activity perform endurance and strength training three times weekly for nine weeks and found that total cholesterol values lowered by 7.6% (Kyröläinen et al., 2018). In just nine weeks, skeletal muscle mass increased by 0.8% and endurance and strength capacity increased. There were no dietary changes during this study – these benefits were solely from their newly formed fitness routine!
In addition, once we hit our forties, muscle mass begins to decline. This decline causes us to get weaker over time, and it also slows our metabolism. A slower metabolism means your body isn’t burning calories as efficiently and quickly, and your body ends up storing more of them as fat. There is really good news that comes along with this, though. There are many things in life that we cannot control, but losing muscle mass doesn’t have to be one of them. If you actively work to maintain your muscle mass (strength train!), you can preserve your muscle, maintain or even gain strength, and keep your metabolism running efficiently (Akasaki et al., 2014).
This list probably doesn’t even come close to covering all of the benefits attached to weight lifting – there are that many of them! – but I hope it does show you how crucial it is in making you feel good and preserving a body that works so hard for you.
Akasaki, Y., Ouchi, N., Izumiya, Y., Bernardo, B. L., LeBrasseur, N. K., & Walsh, K. (2014). Glycolytic fast-twitch muscle fiber restoration counters adverse age-related changes in body composition and metabolism. Aging Cell, 13(1), 80–91. https://doi.org/10.1111/acel.12153
Kyröläinen, H. , Hackney, A. , Salminen, R. , Repola, J. , Häkkinen, K. & Haimi, J. (2018). Effects of combined strength and endurance training on physical performance and biomarkers of healthy young women. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 32 (6), 1554-1561. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002034.
Yu-Kai Chang, Chien-Yu Pan, Feng-Tzu Chen, Chia-Liang Tsai, & Chi-Chang Huang. (2012). Effect of resistance-exercise training on cognitive function in healthy older adults: A Review. Journal of Aging & Physical Activity, 20(4), 497–517.