You may think you’re slaying with your near-daily workouts, kickboxing classes and obsession with running. And you are! But if you aren’t setting aside a significant amount of time for strength training, you’re not getting as much out of your body as you could be.
Everyone stands to gain these and other health benefits from weight training:
More Muscle Mass
This is important whether you want to bulk up or not (most women won’t, anyway). Building muscle throughout your life makes it easier for you to retain it as you age, allowing you to manage daily tasks and live independently for considerably longer.
Less Body Fat
When you increase your muscle mass you also speed up your metabolism, even when you’re resting. This means you’ll be burning more fat during all your workouts, whether they’re for strength or cardio or both! One advantage of weightlifting: your metabolism will stay revved up for up to 24 hours afterward, extending the burn past what cardio gives you.
Stronger Bones and Joints
Weight training strengthens your bones by signaling them to rebuild themselves after being pressured by the added weight; while doing exercises targeting the muscles and tendons around your joints will make them stronger and more able to protect you from painful injuries.
Better Heart Health
A number of studies have linked lifting weights to a reduced risk of heart disease or stroke, including one published by the journal Medicine & Exercise in Sports & Exercise finding a 40% to 70% reduction in the risk of a heart attack or stroke within a sample size of more than 12,000. The results were attributed to lower body mass indexes in those who lifted weights.
Seeing and feeling yourself getting stronger with every workout means you approach everything with a new sense of mastery and control. Your additional power will show in your leaner, more toned body and how much heavy lifting you can do, both physically and mentally!
For these and other reasons, the American Heart Association recommends everyone strength train at least two days a week, spaced one to two days apart, with at least one set of 8 to 12 reps per muscle group (chest, back, arms, shoulders, legs and calves).
Like with any form of exercise, weight training should be approached carefully in the beginning to avoid sustaining those injuries you’re trying to prevent. Consult your doctor first if you have heart disease, diabetes, arthritis or other chronic conditions, or have not been actively exercising recently.
It’s best to start out with lighter weights you can easily complete the 8 to 12 reps with, while practicing good form and posture, which can be learned from a trainer, experienced friend or from videos. Do at least five to 10 minutes of warm-ups.
After about six weeks, start using heavier weights that make it difficult, but not impossible, to complete your sets.