Weight training or resistance training involves performing a movement against resistance in order to improve muscular strength, power, or endurance, and increase muscle mass (a process called hypertrophy). You can perform resistance training using external resistance (dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, resistance bands – so many options!) or your own bodyweight. While you can walk into any gym and see that weightlifting builds muscle, you don’t need to be a bodybuilder or powerlifter (or have anywhere near the strength or muscle mass) to benefit from including resistance training into your routine.
Building muscle improves body composition.
You’ve heard that “muscle weighs more than fat,” and probably also “muscle burns more calories than fat.” Those two statements can help to summarise why building muscle can help maintain a healthy body composition. Muscle is a metabolically active tissue, meaning it requires a lot of energy to exist in your body, even at rest. This means that as you increase your muscle mass through resistance training, while your body weight may increase or barely change, you may notice a reduction in body fat as a result. Fat loss and energy balance has far more to do with your diet than it does with exercise so you may not notice significant physique changes, but there are so many other important reasons to start or continue resistance training.
Strong muscles support sore joints.
Improving the strength of muscles around joints can help to prevent or manage pain that can occur due to conditions such as osteoarthritis. Joints have a lot of features that help to reduce friction (cartilage, synovial fluid, bursae) between bones and the surrounding soft tissue, but the degeneration associated with osteoarthritis and similar conditions can lead to friction-causing irregularities in these tissues. This can lead to a vicious cycle where compression of the joint causes friction, leading to inflammation and further degeneration. Strengthening the muscles around your joints allows them to move without as much compression or friction which can help alleviate pain.
Prevent injuries in sport and day-to-day life.
More and more evidence points towards fatigue and improper load management as predominant causes of sporting injuries. Resistance training can help to improve muscular endurance, reducing the likelihood that you’ll get to a point of injury-causing fatigue. Strategically prescribed weight training can help to strengthen muscles in positions or movements they would typically be weakest and most prone to injury. You don’t need to be an athlete at any level to reap the injury prevention benefits of resistance training – getting strong will help with activities of daily living (ADLs) like standing up from chairs, climbing stairs, and running for the bus.
Stay strong and independent into old age.
Using resistance training to maintain muscular strength and power into old age can also help you to stay mobile and independent for longer. The ADLs mentioned above all require strength to complete independently – a long term sedentary lifestyle combined with the normal reduction in muscle mass and function that occurs with aging can lead to reduced ability to get around independently as you age.
Grow strong bones.
The benefits of resistance training go beyond big, strong muscles, however. Did you know heavy weightlifting can also build your bones? Like every other tissue in your body, bones adapt to the stresses placed on them, which means heavy loading and high impact exercise can build strong bones as you grow, and prevent bone loss (also known as osteopenia or osteoporosis) as you age.
Stay mentally strong.
These are just some of the many ways that weight training can benefit you. Information overload? An exercise physiologist can help you figure out exactly how you can use resistance training to improve your health and answer any other questions you have along the way. To find out more or book an exercise physiology appointment at Acacia Well-Being, Contact Us.