9 Reasons You Should be Adding Weights to Your Workout Routine
By Kelci Scott

Women dominate yoga and Pilates studios, running clubs and your local fitness center cardio section. Even with the rise in popularity of training methodologies, such as CrossFit, that promote women strength training – you still will not find many females in the free weight section.  Weightlifting will not make you “too bulky” and it certainly is not a requirement to lift huge and heavy.  Women who skip the weight room are missing out on the greatest benefits that strength and resistance training has to offer. Resistance training will not only help you feel empowered and more confident, it will create a more well-rounded and healthier you.  

HERE ARE 9 REASONS YOU SHOULD BE ADDING WEIGHTS INTO YOUR WORKOUT ROUTINE:

Strength training is a metabolism boost.  Your body’s resting metabolism accounts for a large amount of your total calories burned each day – roughly 60-80% of your total expenditure.  Strength training increases your lean muscle mass, which in turn increases your resting metabolic rate.  What does this mean for you?  Your body begins working for you – even when you are not physically active.  Yes, please!  

Strength training reduces your risk of injury.  While some injuries cannot be avoided, most can be with proper training.  Research indicates that resistance training increases the strength of ligaments, tendons and the connective tissue sheaths within muscle. Whether you are an avid runner, an experienced triathlete or just the general fitness seeker – strength training (when done properly) can and will reduce your risk of injury by creating more stable joints.  

Strength training improves your mood.  A Harvard University study found that 10 weeks of strength training reduced clinical depression symptoms – even better than traditional counseling did.  Women who strength train report feeling more empowered, more confident, and much better because of their routine.  Individuals who performed three weight workouts a week reported a reduction in overall stress and improved mood and stress reduction.  

Reduce your risk of osteoporosis.  Age related changes, inadequate nutrition and physical activity work together to reduce bone mass at the rate of 1% per year after the age of 40 in both men and women.  However post-menopausal women tend to lose bone mass at an even higher pace. There are numerous studies that show that weight bearing exercises slow the rate of bone loss and several have shown that strength training can build bone.  Which increases the importance for women to continue resistance training as they age. 

Strength training creates definition.  Unlike men, women don’t gain “bulky” muscles from strength training. Compared to men, women typically have 10 to 30 times less hormones that cause muscle hypertrophy, such as testosterone.  You will, however, develop muscle tone and definition by reducing your overall body fat percentage.   

Strength training reduces chronic pain.   Functional fitness exercises train your muscles to work together and prepare them for daily tasks such as bending down and picking up your child, starting a lawn mower or walking up multiple flights of stairs.  Muscle imbalances can cause poor movement patterns and poor posture which will ultimately lead to lower back pain and soft tissue injury – even while performing simple daily tasks.  Incorporating compound lifts such as the squat, deadlift or bench that involve multiple muscle groups and joints will increase balance and overall stability which will ultimately improve your movement pattern and reduce risk of injury.   60 to 80 percent of adults are likely to experience low back pain.  A reduction in core strength and flexibility increases lumbar instability, resulting in back pain.  Strengthening exercises are considered the most effective treatment for chronic lower back pain, in several studies there was an average of 75% reduction in back pain among patients who performed core stabilization and lower body exercises.  

Strength training reduces your risk of diabetes and heart disease. Studies show that resistance training is as good as aerobic exercise at boosting how well your body utilizes insulin and controlling your blood sugar.  The American Diabetes Association recommends that patients who are high-risk, pre-diabetic or recently diagnosed start a strength training program to help with blood sugar control.  Even two to three days per week of a consistent and well-balanced weight training program can have a significant impact on controlling blood sugar in patients already diagnosed with diabetes.  Weight training has also been proven to be just as affective as cardiovascular exercise in protecting against heart attacks and stroke.  Even spending just one hour per week in the weight room can improve multiple markers related to heart health.  

Strength training increases athletic performance.  It doesn’t matter if you are a competitive athlete or a general fitness seeker – strength training needs to be part of your routine.  A constantly varied strength training program will keep your body guessing and break through plateaus.  Increasing overall muscle strength will increase an individual’s speed, agility and endurance.  Whether you are an avid runner on the Ozark Greenway Trails or spending your weekends wakeboarding at Table Rock Lake, your body will benefit from weightlifting.  

Strength training will reduce body fat (and help you keep it off). In recent research on overweight or obese individuals, the combination of a low calorie diet in addition to weight training resulted in greater fat loss than individuals who followed a low calorie diet and cardio program.  In one study, individuals who followed a cardiovascular workout regimen did lose a comparable amount of weight, however a significant portion of their weight loss included lean muscle mass.  However, the individuals who followed a weight training program maintained their muscle mass while losing fat.  These findings suggest that strength training is better at helping individuals reduce body fat percentage than cardio alone.   

No disrespect to cardio, but if you want to maximize your results in the gym it is time to start lifting weights.  The benefits of a weight training program have no age limit and it is never too late to get started.  Even if you are happy with your current program, mix it up – add some weights and get after it!

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