The benefits of lifting weights

By Jeremy Ray, BS, CPT, fitness center coordinator at Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock

Have you ever wondered why the person who consistently comes in the gym and lifts weights tends to have more shape and a leaner look than the person who comes in day after day and just runs or does the elliptical? It all boils down to muscle.

If you’re not lifting weights in your workouts, you’re not alone. Many people are uninformed about weight training or are intimidated about using them. No matter your reason, it’s important to not get overwhelmed. Let’s examine the many benefits and facts that come with adding weights to your workout routine.

Weights provide a resistance for the body to overcome, and in return, the body responds by adding muscle. Hence, the term “resistance training.” Resistance can be applied in various ways. For example, body weight, bands, and sandbags are all viable options.

Muscle growth and development is one of the most desired effects of resistance training. When you lift weights, you’re microscopically damaging the muscle, and as a result, it increases the muscle’s size and strength, as well as its capacity to handle more. Why is this good? With increased muscle comes increased metabolism, better insulin sensitivity, improved testosterone levels and cognitive function, and more confidence. If done properly and consistently, you’re sure to experience the positive results you’re looking for.

More muscle also means more strength, and although strength is additionally obtained by neurological improvements, the muscle you build will become a more efficient power-producing tissue. Functions like squatting, stepping, reaching, and throwing are movements you’ll perform throughout your entire life, and your ability to perform those and many more will only improve with added strength.

Increasing your metabolism is the most important aspect when it comes to weight loss. If you increase your muscle mass by 1, 2, or even 3 pounds, your metabolism will increase and your body will become a more efficient fat burner. Couple that with a healthy, nutritious diet and you’ll shed even more fat. If aesthetics is your focus, weights are a vital component to your success since more muscle equates to a more toned body.

Weight training not only has these benefits but also positively contributes to longer-term health, including decreasing your risk for certain diseases and conditions.

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States and is a risk factor for also developing heart disease. Increased muscle will help improve insulin sensitivity, which in turn will lower your risk of developing diabetes. Hormones are also affected by resistance training – in particular testosterone. Maintaining or increasing levels of testosterone is extremely beneficial because it’s responsible for helping to maintain muscle mass and stimulate red cell production, which is needed to deliver oxygen. Low levels have been linked to low libido, fatigue, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Some studies even show a link between increased testosterone levels and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Higher levels of testosterone are also thought to contribute to improved memory, improved self-confidence, and cognitive function.

These are only a few of the benefits of what resistance training and added muscle can have on your health. I encourage you to take this information into consideration before your next workout and try it so you can experience it yourself. You will not be disappointed. If you’re not confident about what to do or how to execute certain exercises, get with a fitness professional to guide you along the way. Good luck, stay fit, and have fun!