The benefits of lifting weights

THE benefits of cardiovascular exercise, such as running, swimming and walking, among others, are widely known. From helping us live longer to lifting our mood and helping fight off various diseases, cardio is in no need of a barker to harp on its positive effects on the human body.

Similarly, lifting weights, whether at home or in a gym—our bodies can’t tell the difference, really—come with a wide range of health benefits which may make us consider wanting to move the heavy stuff around.

We often associate lifting weights with wanting to have toned or bulging muscles, depending on one’s predilections. True, that may be the case in most instances. But beyond aesthetics and having the perfect beach body, here are some of the other benefits of lifting:

• Improves metabolism

When lifting, we generally recruit our Type II muscle fibers. Researchers have proven that an increase in such muscle fibers have the ability to reduce body fat even without dietary changes, thus being an effective way to ward off obesity.

• Stronger bones

During our senior years, osteoporosis—which is associated with weak bones, possibly leading to fractures, can be a grave concern. Lifting can help prevent bone loss or even build new bones. Lifting makes our target muscles, as well as our bones, become stronger—effectively fighting off osteoporosis.

• Perform better at sports

Most professional athletes undertake a weight-training program to further boost their athletic performance. Certain exercises target specific muscles and movements with the end in mind of improving athleticism. Leg squats, for instance, will help us have a higher, more explosive vertical leap. Perfect for snaring that rebound, blocking that shot and sinking that jumper when playing basketball.

• Prevent back pain

Back pain is a common ailment most adults will experience at least once in their lives. For others it can be a debilitating concern that prevents us from going about our normal daily functions. The good news is that a properly undertaken weight-training program may ease back pain by strengthening our core—muscles, that support our spine. Exercises such as planks, crunches and other movements that strengthen the lower back may spell the end for back pain.

• Increases mental toughness

When lifting weights, you are doing battle with yourself. Repeatedly moving weights to your desired number of sets and repetitions will require mental focus and fortitude. As we increase difficulty and challenge ourselves further, this builds mental toughness and character that lends itself to our other activities outside the weights room.

• Reduce the risk of diabetes

A study conducted by the Archives of Internal Medicine reveals that men who lifted weights for 150 minutes each week, at the rate of five  30-minute sessions, reduced diabetes risk by34 percent. Adding regular cardiovascular exercise further slashed the risk by 59 percent. So yes, combining weights with cardio is a potent diabetes fighter.

If these six benefits of lifting weights still leave you unconvinced to pick up those dumbbells, let me try to make one last appeal to vanity. A proper weight-training program, when combined with a sensible nutrition plan, has the potential to make us look the best we have ever been. Achieving our ideal body will be a testament to our discipline, hard work, character and ability to get things done. You’re a doer, so get things done.  And showing off that six pack this coming summer is a priceless experience that money can’t buy.