There is an ongoing battle in the gym between cardio versus strength training. While both have their benefits, here are nine reasons why you should pick up weights.
1. Lose Fat
Many have said that cardio is the way to go when looking to burn fat, but the moment you stop running the fire fizzles out. Lifting weights is the secret to losing fat.
Penn State University researchers put overweight people on a reduced-calorie diet and divided them into three groups. One remained sedentary, another did only aerobic exercise, and the last group performed cardio and weight training three days a week. Each group lost nearly the same amount of weight – approximately 20 lbs. – but weights led to 40% greater fat loss, while the other two groups lost several pounds of muscle.
2. Burn Calories
You’ll burn calories with each lift, but strength training also increases the number of calories you burn while you’re at rest because your body is trying to aid in muscle recovery.
A director of fitness research in Quincy, Massachusetts says the calories burned in rest can be up to 25% of those shed in your strength training session. He adds that for every three pounds of muscle you build you’ll burn an extra 120 calories a day on average because muscle takes more energy to sustain.
3. Sleep Better
A study published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine found that eight weeks of consistent weightlifting saw up to a 30% improvement in sleeping habits. Participants in the study were able to fall asleep faster and remain asleep longer than before they became physically active. Give yourself time to cool off before bed since weightlifting raises your metabolism and temperature. Three to six hours is recommended by the National Sleep Foundation between a workout and bedtime.
4. Reduce Risk of Type II Diabetes
Harvard School of Public Health found that men who strength train regularly may be able to reduce their risk of Type II Diabetes by up to 34%. Researches believe it is due to increased muscle mass that improves insulin sensitivity. When combined with aerobic exercise the benefit jumps to 59% reduced risk.
5. Improve Mood
Lifting weights lift spirits. Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that people who performed three weight workouts a week for six months significantly improved their scores on measures of anger and overall mood.
6. Fight Depression
Harvard Medical School discovered that people suffering from depression feel better if they weight train, and the heavier the weights used the greater effect it had on the level of depression. Participants trained three times a week for 10 weeks, doing exercises for large muscle groups: bench-press, lat-pulldown, leg-press, leg-extension and leg-curl. At the end of the study, all participants were in a better frame of mind and scored better for the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression.
7. Decrease Stress
Strength training releases a lot of endorphins, also known as the “feel good” hormones. Using resistance forces your body to exert energy you would otherwise store as stress. In one study, Texas A&M University scientists found that the fittest people exhibited lower levels of stress hormones in their bloodstreams than subjects who were least fit.
8. Build Stronger Bones
Weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises are both recommended by the National Osteoporosis Foundation (USA) to build and maintain bone density. Researchers found that among older women who break a hip during a fall, more than 50% never walk again. The good news is, just 16 weeks of resistance training two to three times a week increases hip bone density and elevates blood levels of osteocalcin, a marker of bone growth, by 19%.
9. Live Longer
University of Hawaii scientists found that being strong at middle age was associated with “exceptional survival,” meaning living until 85 without developing a major disease.
Similarly, a study by the National Institutes of Health (USA) found that lifting weights just twice a week could prevent you from gaining intra-abdominal fat – the kind that wraps around organs and constricts blood vessels.