If your natural reflex when you walk into the gym is to hop on a cardio machine, that’s totally understandable. After all, cycling or running on the treadmill doesn’t require the same planning or knowledge of safe form as lifting does, and it’s a great and easy way to get active. But, if you’re wanting to get even more out of your workouts, look no further than strength training. While the weights section of the gym can certainly be intimidating, the benefits are incredibly rewarding.
- You burn more calories at rest
While those looking to lose weight often gravitate towards cardio as their workout method of choice — after all, the visible count of calories burned on a standard treadmill or bike can be rather motivating — science actually suggests that strength training is generally more effective for fat loss than cardio. Yes, it’s true that you will burn more calories during an hour of cardio than an hour of lifting, but an increase in muscle leads to a dramatic increase in metabolism. This heightened metabolic rate means that you’ll burn significantly more calories while at rest than someone who does cardio or doesn’t exercise much at all.
- It will improve bone density and strength
Though the possibility of frail bones or osteoporosis is far too distant to be an active concern of any college-aged person, it’s never too early to start thinking about how your current behavior will affect your overall well-being decades down the road. Numerous studies have indicated a correlation between strength training and improved bone quality. Harvard Health explains that strength training can not only “play a role in slowing bone loss,” but it also can even help to “build bone.” Though often overlooked, this improvement in bone health should be a major selling point in terms of the importance of strength training—the millions of Americans who suffer from osteoporosis are a testament to just how important these parts of our body are!
- Lifting weights can lessen risk of heart disease and diabetes
With heart disease and diabetes both falling in the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States, it’s more important than ever to protect ourselves against these common health problems. Fortunately, studies show that weight lifting can contribute to a lessened risk of contracting either of the two diseases. With just one hour a week of weight training, you will have anywhere from a 40 percent to 70 percent lower risk of having a heart attack, among many other benefits. Talk about bang for your buck!
- It will reduce symptoms of depression
While weight lifting isn’t by any means a seamless solution for what can be such a severe mental illness, a myriad of studies has found that there exists a link between strength training and the brain’s ability to fight depression. Lifting weights increases the amount of dopamine in the brain, a feel-good hormone that is also released when engaging in other pleasurable activities like eating chocolate, listening to music and getting a massage. As a result, you’ll leave the gym happier and in brighter spirits than you were before. In my own mental health journey, weight lifting has played an incredibly important role. Though I’ve struggled with anxiety rather than depression, channeling my nervous energy towards reaching goals in the gym has reduced my worries immeasurably.
- You’ll have more confidence than ever
This one comes from my personal experience more than anything. When you’re growing stronger every day and pushing yourself to be the best version of yourself, an increase in confidence is inevitable. Whether it’s about improving your physique, boosting your health, or just feeling a little bit safer while walking to your car at night, weight lifting is bound to make you feel better than ever.
While cardio certainly has its own host of benefits and shouldn’t be eliminated from a workout regimen entirely, it is important to focus on incorporating weights into your fitness routine as well. Here’s to feeling our strongest, happiest, and healthiest ever!