Lifting weights is a natural choice if you want a broad back and bulging biceps. However, you might be surprised to learn that it’s also effective for a much wider range of fitness goals.
Less than 25% of American adults exercise regularly. Even fewer make strength training a central part of their routine. If that sounds like you, you’re missing out on more than bigger muscles. Incorporating the power of resistance into your workouts can help you get more impressive results in less time. Learn more about what strength training can do for you, and how to get started.
7 Lesser-Known Benefits of Strength Training:
1. Condition your heart. Cardio may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about exercises for your heart, but strength training works too. That’s because it helps reduce abdominal fat which causes inflammation and other health issues.
2. Lower your blood pressure. Hypertension puts you at higher risk for stroke and heart disease, and there are often no symptoms to warn you. Along with taking any medication recommended by your doctor, physical activity can help you stay within a safer range.
3. Lose weight. Muscle burns more calories than fat even when you’re sitting on the couch. As long as you avoid eating more, you may find it easier to shed excess pounds.
4. Prevent falls. Enhancing your balance and posture makes you steadier on your feet. Weight-bearing exercises also thicken your bones, so your injuries may be less serious even if you do slip.
5. Increase flexibility. Lowering weights affects your body in much the same way as static stretches. That extra flexibility reduces stress and gives you greater freedom of movement.
6. Increase your energy. Daily tasks require less effort when you reduce your body fat and learn to use your body more efficiently. You may find it easier to keep up with your children and grandchildren.
7. Boost your overall well-being. Research shows that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants for some patients. In addition to looking fit, you’re likely to feel happier and calmer and may even reverse cognitive decline associated with aging.
Tips for Getting Started with Strength Training:
1. Follow instructions. Lifting weights can be safe as long as you take a few simple precautions. Work with a trainer or watch videos to study proper form and choose exercises that are less likely to cause injury.
2. Proceed gradually. Start with light weights and work your way up as your body adapts. As a general rule, expect to increase your load by 10% or less at any one time.
3. Lift heavy. At the same time, you’ll progress faster if you use the heaviest weights you can handle safely. That usually means you can just barely complete your last repetition.
4. Seek variety. Work your muscles from different angles. Experiment with free weights and machines as well as body weight exercises, like pushups and dips.
5. Take days off. Your muscles actually grow during the time you spend resting in between workouts. That might mean relaxing or doing other activities like hiking or swimming.
6. Adjust your lifestyle. Adopt healthy habits to go along with your physical activities. Eat a balanced diet and aim for 8 hours of sleep each night. Manage stress and cultivate mutually supportive relationships.
A toned body looks great, but strength training offers so much more. Take care of your body and mind with a well-rounded fitness program that will help you enjoy a long and active life.
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