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The Benefits of Weight Training

By Alan Frost, updated December, 2013

man and woman in gymIn the past, weight training was often perceived as an inferior or niche type of exercise, second always to cardio and sports. In recent times however, more and more benefits of weight training have been discovered, and today lifting weights is something people of all ages are doing.

So what how can weight lifting benefit you?

  • For weight loss: Lean muscle burns calories to sustain itself. The more lean muscle you have, the more calories you burn even while at rest. Weight training is the best way to build muscle, but equally importantly, it also helps protect you from losing muscle when you are trying to lose weight. One of the biggest problems when people diet is that a certain percentage of the lost weight is muscle. With weight training, you can minimize that percentage. All this on top of the calories you actually burn while training.
  • For weight gain: Although these days we always hear about weight loss (and for good reason), there is also that segment of the population who fight their entire lives to put on mass. One of the great benefits of weight lifting is that you can put on healthy, lean muscle mass, increasing your physical ability while bringing your weight into the normal range.
  • For bone density. Bone deterioration is a big problem as we age. Weight training not only prevents this, but it can actually strengthen your bones. This decreases the chance of injury and maintains functional abilities into one’s elder years.
  • Strengthening connective tissues and tendons. This decreases the risk of injury especially as you age or when you engage in intensive physical activity.
  • Senior woman exercisingIncreased strength, physical performance, anaerobic endurance: Any activity that requires explosive power, strength, and/or anaerobic endurance (i.e. endurance at a high intensity level) can probably benefit from a weight training program.
  • Reduces stress
  • Helps prevent and manage diabetes
  • Boosts brain function and has been linked with a positive effect for Alzheimers patients (Kounang, 2012).
  • Has been linked with having a positive effect on patients with Parkinson's disease David et al., 2012).

All in all weight lifting can keep you healthier, leaner, and more able. It can be used to enhance physical performance at the elite level or maintain function ability as you age (and everything in between). Weight training is versatile and can be used in a wide range of contexts, and the body types that result from different types of weight lifting look nothing alike. You can weight lift and be big, athletic, powerful, and/or strong. The benefits of weight lifting are such that more or less everyone should incorporate some degree of training into their weekly routines. What and how to train will depend on your specific goals.

References:

David FJ, Rafferty MR, Robichaud JA, Prodoehl J, Kohrt WM, Vaillancourt DE, et al. Progressive resistance exercise and Parkinson's disease: a review of potential mechanisms. Parkinsons Dis. 2012;2012: 124527. PMid:22191068 PMCid:PMC3236435.

Hatfield FC (2004), Fitness The Complete Guide edition 8.6.6, International Sports Science Association's Certified Fitness Trainer Program

Kounang N (2012), Strength training key in preventing Alzheimer's, The Chart, CNN Health, http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/16/strength-training-key-in-preventing-alzheimers/

Shiraev T, Barclay G. Evidence based exercise — clinical benefits of high intensity interval training. Aust Fam Physician. 2012 Dec;41(12):960-2.



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