Why You Need to Lift Weights For Your Health
Are you lifting weights? You should be. Aside from making you stronger, there are some vital health benefits of resistance training that you just can’t get from any other form of exercise.
Resistance training (using your muscles to lift heavy weights, either external weights or yourself) makes you stronger. Strength is one of the greatest predictors of both your lifespan (how long you live) and your healthspan (how long you live in a healthy state).
Resistance training like this will also improve your flexibility (by going through a full range of motion), posture and coordination. It will also build stability around your joints and spine to give you a healthy musculo-skeletal system and reduce joint and back pain.
As we age lifting weights will minimise losses in bone mineral density and will improve your balance. Strength and balance are the two strongest predictors of falls later in life, so this is an effective way to train fall prevention, and ensure your independence into old age.
As a result of resistance training, you will experience changes in blood chemistry, including favourable effects on cholesterol, blood glucose, triglyceride and lipid levels.
Lifting weights has beneficial effects on your body shape too. It will increase your lean muscle mass and muscle fibre size. Muscle is a metabolically active tissue, so increasing it will maximise how much energy your body burns at rest. This makes it an effective session to reach healthy levels of body fat, both visceral fat (around the organs) and subcutaneous fat (under your skin). After this session, your body will go through a prolonged state of ‘EPOC’ (excess post- exercise oxygen consumption), meaning you’ll continue burning energy long after you finish training – further aiding healthy body composition.
So what exercises should you be doing?
We need to build our training around heavy, compound, resistance based exercise. Lifting weights. Compound exercises refer to movements that use as many muscles and joints as possible. Using big groups of muscles burn big bits of energy. Maximal return on investment. Contrast this with ‘isolation’ exercise (which uses only one joint and one muscle at a time), and you can see that compound movements are a more efficient way to get more benefit in less time – a minimalist approach.
If you’re not lifting weights, consider adding it into your weekly routine, your health will thank you!
Dan Williams is the Director of Range of Motion and leads a team of Exercise Physiologists, Sports Scientists, Physiotherapists and Coaches. He has a Bachelor of Science (Exercise and Health Science) and a Postgraduate Bachelor of Exercise Rehabilitation Science from The University of Western Australia, with minors in Biomechanics and Sport Psychology.