Most exercise guides – especially those targeted to women – focus on cardio, since cardio is king when it comes to weight loss. But lifting weights isn't just for body builders and people who want to bulk up. Indeed, the CDC recommends that all adults do strength training at least two days per week. Still not sure lifting weights is for you? Weightlifting does much more than build muscle, and lifting weights doesn't mean you have to bulk up. In fact, you don't even have to lift weights. Bodyweight exercises such as squats and lunges are just as good.
1. Improved Bone Health
When you force your muscles to work, you also force your bones to work, strengthening them over time. Strength training increases bone mineral density, and can even reverse some of the effects of osteoporosis. If you want to prevent osteoporosis, thinning bones, bone breaks, and the reduction in height that often comes with age, look no further than the weight rack.
2. Reduction in Muscle Pain
It's common for people to believe that weight training causes muscle pain. In actuality, it's a sedentary lifestyle that's more likely to cause muscle aches. Challenge your muscles and they'll recover more quickly from injuries and cause you less pain.
3. More Rapid Weight Loss
Muscle is denser than fat, which means moving muscle demands more energy, and therefore more calories. What's the takeaway here? Muscle burns more calories than fat, which means that packing on muscle mass can actually help you lose fat – even if the weight on the scale doesn't shift much.
4. Prevention of Chronic Illnesses
You probably already know that a daily dose of cardio can help stave off heart attacks and reduce your risk of obesity. But strength training also factors into the equation. Research has shown that lifting weights can reduce your risk of developing diabetes, and in people who already have diabetes, strength training can help control glucose levels. Strength training may also alleviate the pain of arthritis, and some research even suggests it can help prevent cancer.
5. Better Mental Health
If you want better mental health, a therapist's office isn't the only place to find it – though you should consider therapy if you're struggling with chronic depression and anxiety. Weight training can help reduce your risk of depression, and research suggests it's also a healthy way to manage symptoms of anxiety. The benefits don't end there, though. Regular strength training can help regulate your circadian rhythms, making it easier to fall asleep, improving sleep quality, and helping you feel less exhausted when you awaken from your slumber.