12 Reasons To Start Lifting Weights (and The Health Benefits of Resistance Exercise)

12 Reasons To Start Lifting Weights (and The Health Benefits of Resistance Exercise)


Let’s talk about the health benefits of lifting weights. Maybe you are looking to begin a physically active lifestyle or to expand your current exercise regimen. Perhaps you are looking to treat or prevent some chronic disease that you have or are at risk of developing. Regardless of the reason, this video is designed to help you appreciate the health benefits of lifting weights.

One point before getting started. Lifting weights can also be termed resistance exercise. A lot of literature describes it this way. The term “resistance exercise” means anything in which there is an opposing force to the activity you are performing, whether that’s a curl, a pushup or a squat. Weight lifting specifically refers to the use of weights as a type of resistance exercise, but in general the two terms are interchangeable and you will hear me use them that way.

1. It’s heart healthy.

If you have haven’t seen my video regarding the cardio protective benefits of exercise, I suggest you check it out. There are many, numerous benefits to resistance training on your heart. A few of the big examples include, but is certainly not limited to:

  • Reduced risk of heart attack and stroke
  • Improved cholesterol profile (lower LDL, higher HDL)
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improves coronary blood flow

These are as good a reason as any to lift weights.

2. Lower your risk of developing diabetes mellitus

Have a family history of diabetes or have you been diagnosed with pre-diabetes? Weight training is one of the most important ways in which you can prevent and treat this disease. The National Institute of Health found that weight training reduces your risk of diabetes by 34%. Diabetes is a problem of either (a) insulin production or (b) insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is what occurs in type 2 diabetes and is far more common in 21st century America. Weight training can improve your bodies sensitivity to insulin, helping reduce your burden of disease, reduce the amount of medications you need and potentially reverse the disease entirely.

3. Improve Athletic Performance

Many studies have investigated the benefits of resistance training on athletic performance which can include casual sports, professional sports or even seemingly unrelated activities such as running, swimming or bicycling. These studies are unequivocal, weight training improves your performance virtually across the board.

It’s also been shown to reduce your risk of sports related injuries, especially to high risk joints such as ankles, knees, hips and shoulders. It’s also protective of your back, assuming you lift weights safely and with good form.

4. Extended lifespan.

It’s not news these days that exercise is good for you; and for a multitude of reasons. More research is exploring the finer points of the health benefits of exercise including living longer. Lean skeletal muscle is associated with a longer lifespan. Animal and human models have shown that a decline or decrease in skeletal muscle is associated with a shorter lifespan. Put another way, within reason, the greater your muscle mass, the less your risk of death.

5. Improved sleep

Exercise is associated with better, healthier sleep. In modern society, we often find ourselves turning to medications to help improve the quality of our sleep, especially for folks who work odd hours or have difficulty sleeping in general. Research is mounting that suggests exercise improves sleep quality. While more research is needed to appreciate the direct impact of exercise on the different stages of sleep (such as REM sleep or rapid eye movement), the trend is clear. Exercise, including lifting weights, is associated with improved sleep hygiene.

6. Increase your basal metabolic rate.

Basal metabolic rate is a way of describing the number of calories your body would burn in a 24 hour period if you didn't do anything during that time frame. I have made a video on the subject and I would encourage you to check it out. Essentially, it describes all the calories your body burns in a normal day regardless of your activity level. Weight lifting and increasing your skeletal muscle mass directly increases your whole body metabolism, which is a great thing. This is why athletes have to eat more food than an average person, because their body demands more.

7. Weight loss & Improved body adiposity

To go along with increasing your basal metabolic rate, strength training and weightlifting is associated with weight loss and a reduction in total body fat. To be fair, muscle weighs more than fat so some folks may actually gain a few pounds as they begin their journey. As they progress, if they don’t lose weight they will, at the very least reduce their percentage of total body fat which is associated with a reduced risk of major diseases such as heart attack, stroke and diabetes.

8. Healthy bones

Osteoporosis is a disease of brittle bones that most people would associate with little old ladies, but the truth is it weaker bones and decreased bone density is a normal part of the aging process. Our body morphology changes as we get older and part of that includes thinning of our bones, regardless of gender. One of the primary prevention methods and treatments for osteoporosis, and it’s precursor osteopenia, is resistance based training. By increase the stress load on our joints with weights, we’re forcing the bones to strengthen, reducing our risk of fractures as we get older.

9. Boost your balance, flexibility

To go along with strengthening your bones, you can actually improve your overall balance and flexibility. An Australian study found that strength and balance training reduced the risk of falls in the elderly and other high risk individuals. It also improved and maintained functional capacity. In other words, falling and breaking bones is a major cause of morbidity (disease) and mortality (death) in the elderly and reducing fall risk is a major focus of geriatric medicine.

10. Improved stamina, productivity

Increased skeletal muscle is associated with a reduction in fatigue and improvement in total stamina. It is true that you may find yourself exhausted immediately after your workout, but this is transient and resolves with nutrition and sleep. However weight training has been shown to increase your bodies stamina on a day-to-day basis and allow you to be more productive during the day.

11. Psychologic and Neurologic benefits

There are many known but often underappreciated psychological benefits to exercise. I’ve chosen to lump them all together but the truth is these are very important to an individuals quality of life and probably deserve an entire video on their own. Various studies have shown that strength training reduced the risk of depression and suicide, reduced stress and improved self esteem. It’s also shown to increase social activity, body image and mood. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it reduces the risk of memory loss and and staves off the development of dementia.

12. You don’t have to be built like an olympic power lifter

Finally, I just want to point out that you don’t have to be able to squat 500 lbs or have shoulders as wide as a door frame to enjoy all these benefits. Most, if not all of the research surrounding the health benefits of resistance training involves adults of average build who completed modest (at best) training programs. You can even use just your bodyweight to build muscle and still maximize a lot of these health benefits.

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