Some of the benefits of working out with weights are as follows:
- Maintains strength. Everything we do requires all-round bodily strength – from simple movements such as eating a meal to more difficult tasks such as lifting and pushing. You only have to see the muscle wastage that occurs in someone with a broken leg that is encased in plaster to see the atrophy and loss of strength that inactivity causes. By following an all-over weights workout, you can maintain your ability to carry out everyday tasks without difficulty.
- Reduces injury risk. When you do a resistance workout, the focus is generally on improving your muscular strength. However, not only does the strength of your muscles improve, but so does the strength of connective tissues such as tendons. Tendon injuries in sport and ordinary activities are very common – but doing a regular weight workout will reduce the likelihood of these injuries occurring.
- Prevents osteoporosis. Osteoporosis – or brittle bone disease – affects both men and women, with an estimated 50 per cent of women and 20 per cent of men suffering an osteoporosis fracture after the age of 50. Impact activities such as walking and jogging are excellent at building bone density in the legs and spine, but one of the most common fracture sites is the wrist, where impact activities have no effect. The solution is to strengthen the whole skeleton through resistance training, because lifting weights actually stimulates the skeleton to get thicker and stronger – which will help to counteract the effects of brittle bone disease.
- Helps weight management. The more muscle your body has, the more calories you burn – whether you are exercising or not! The energy cost of having a greater muscle mass is more than for any other body tissue, so if you tone up, you will increase your calorie burn 24 hours a day. An extra pound of muscle equates to burning an extra 50 calories a day – so ‘hitting the gym’ for a weights workout will help keep you slim!
- Improves cardiovascular (CV) function. A workout with dumbbells or static weight machines will bring as many health and fitness benefits as pure cardiovascular training, correct nutrition, stretching or core training. Even though a resistance workout is usually less dynamic compared with aerobic activities such as jogging, the demand for oxygen by the working muscles will still help to condition the CV system. If your resistance exercise program is structured well, it will provide a challenging CV workout as well as maintain your strength.
- Prevents sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is the naturally occurring muscle wastage that happens as we age. Unless remedial action is taken, after the age of 30, muscle mass is lost at a rate of between 3 per cent and 5 per cent per decade, which leads to many general health and fitness problems. However, a resistance workout carried out just a couple of times a week can not only prevent sarcopenia, but the effects in some cases can actually be reversed!
- Is essential for power and speed in sport. Muscle power is a key factor at every level of sporting performance. If you do not have good muscular strength, then your ability to run, jump, throw or kick will be reduced. Resistance training enables a sportsperson to specifically target the appropriate muscle groups that are relevant for their sport. And if you take the game of football as an example – which has become faster and more physical – you only have to compare pictures of older players with any current player to see the huge differences in strength and conditioning that have occurred over the years, which now enable players to cope with the demands of the modern game.
- Helps you feel good. Any form of exercise brings about a feeling of well-being, be it from ‘runner’s high’-type endorphins to a safety valve for releasing stress, to the simple act of knowing that you’ve had a decent workout. With resistance training, there is a proven additional psychological response from lifting weights that generates a feeling of confidence and gives you a mental boost, so that you ‘feel good’.
- Helps you look good. No-one wants to look unfit or out of shape: slim and trim is usually the order of the day. If you follow a regular conditioning program by using weights, you can tone up and retain muscle tone – which in turn will give your body a good shape and help your clothes fit better. Irrespective of health benefits, everyone wants to look their best – and resistance training sessions will help you to achieve that goal.
- It's a fun workout. The images of a fun activity and someone grunting and groaning in the gym as they try to force out another repetition don’t seem to be a very good match, but ‘resistance training’ doesn’t have to mean ‘bodybuilding’. Walking or jogging with weights, going to group-based circuit classes, or training with a partner, are all fun ways to train – so why not try out some different options and see what types of training are best for you?
Worth the ‘weight’?
With such a comprehensive range of health and fitness benefits, a regular weight training or resistance workout is guaranteed to enhance your long-term fitness. Ideally, you should try to make time for two separate resistance sessions every week, spaced 48 to 72 hours apart to allow time for recovery and adaptation. However, if time constraints mean that you can’t commit to twice-weekly sessions, then a single workout each week will still make a big difference to you in numerous ways – and will definitely be worth the ‘weight’...