Think Weight Training is Just for Growing Bulky Muscles? Think Again.

Once upon a time, I believed that weight training served no purpose except to grow bulky muscles.  For general health and fitness, I stuck to the elliptical and treadmill in 30-minute bouts– I had no desire to look like a bodybuilder, so I never picked up a weight.

Now that I’m much older and wiser, I know that weight training has many health benefits– crafting a sculpted physique is just one of them.  Benefits that everyone– male or female, young or old, thin or heavy– can appreciate.  Just because you lift weights doesn’t mean you have to develop bulky muscles, unless that’s what you want to do.

If your gym is like every one that I’ve ever been to, the treadmills, ellipticals, and stair steppers are always full while the weight room might be occupied by a handful of people.  Why is that?  I think many people feel the same way I used to feel– that strength training doesn’t offer something for everyone.  Or people may be too intimidated to try something new, so the cardio machines are a safer bet.  If you are one of those people– I sincerely hope you give strength training a try after reading this post.

Cardio or aerobic exercise is a great way to get in shape and stay that way.  It burns calories and improves heart health, which can have positive side effects like lowered blood pressure and cholesterol levels.  Cardio is a very important part of any fitness regimen.

Add strength training to your routine, however, and you take your health and fitness to a new level.  And I don’t mean the “Look-Like-Arnold” level (unless that’s your goal, of course).  I mean an optimum level of fitness for people of all ages, shapes, and sizes.  Everyone (who is healthy enough to perform strength training exercises– always consult a doctor before beginning) can benefit from adding strength training to their routine.

My workout regimen now focuses more on a solid weight training program with a few strictly cardio workouts mixed in (I also run as often as I can, but I don’t consider that cardio– that’s more for enjoyment purposes only!).

If you’re hesitant to incorporate strength training into your fitness routine, you shouldn’t be.  Here’s why:

  • First of all, let’s set things straight– cardio exercise isn’t the only way to get your heart pumping and burn calories.  Strength training will also elevate your heart rate and provide you with the same cardiovascular benefits as aerobic exercise, especially if you strength train in a circuit style.  This means you’ll lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc.  Don’t be deceived by the decreased movement that’s usually associated with strength training– your heart will still be working.
  • Did you ever hear the saying that muscle burns more calories than fat?  Cardio exercise raises your metabolic rate, or caloric burn, for hours after your workout.  A strength training session will raise your metabolic rate for hours after your workout as well.  However, building muscle over time will result in an increase of your resting metabolic rate– which means you will be burning more calories throughout the day than you would if you didn’t have that muscle mass.  If you’re trying to lose weight, strength training will help you achieve your goals much faster than doing cardio alone.
  • Strength training places stress on our bones, which signals the body to produce cells that increase bone mass.  As we age, we begin to lose bone mass naturally– females more so than men. Regular strength training sessions are important in preserving bone mass and preventing loss, especially as we get older.
  • More than 14 million Americans suffer from type II diabetes.  Strength training has been shown to improve the storage and utilization of glucose in muscle, which can help sufferers better manage their diabetes.
  • Strength training increases the strength and power of your muscles– giving you the ability to perform everyday tasks more efficiently.  I know that I, for one, have much less trouble lifting and carrying heavy things now that I have incorporated strength training into my fitness routine.
  • Stronger muscles, especially in the core area, help correct posture.  Good posture is essential because it puts less strain on your ligaments and muscles, decreasing the risk of chronic pain or even injury in your spine and surrounding areas.
  • Having strong muscles, tendons, and ligaments as a result of strength training provide support for your joints, resulting in a decreased likelihood of injury.  This is important for everyone, but even more so for athletes who already place a higher-than-usual amount of stress on their bodies.  If you are an athlete, cross training with resistance training is crucial to prevent injuries.

If you ask me, the lean physique that can result from strength training is just an added bonus on top of all the other health benefits that resistance training has to offer.  While it’s certainly not the only outcome of a solid strength training program, it’s an important one– when we look good, we feel good!

If you would like to start incorporating strength training into your routine but aren’t sure where to start, I highly recommend either hiring a personal trainer or buying a quality instructional book to help you get started safely and easily.  I started strength training after buying a book that discusses weight training specifically for women.  Don’t attempt to start weight training unless you have a solid foundation of knowledge, or you risk injuring yourself.

I usually weight train at home where it’s more convenient for me (check out my previous post on working out at home here).  The best part of weight training at home?  My doggies get to work out with me!!

Happy lifting!

Sources:
http://www.livestrong.com/article/322229-cardio-exercise-health-benefits/http://www.livestrong.com/article/485498-does-exercise-raise-your-metabolic-rate-for-several-hours-after-the-workout/
http://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/bonemass.html
http://www.dmsjournal.com/content/1/1/27
http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/growingstronger/why/index.html
http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/trainingstation1.htm

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