Do you include weights to your exercise routine? Studies have revealed that if you don’t, you probably should.
Strength and resistance training is the best way to achieve a toned, lean body, the bone-strengthening health benefits of lifting weights are brilliant, too. Weight bearing exercise has a hugely positive effect on bone density and warding off osteoporosis. In fact, a study by Physician and Sportsmedicine found that post-menopausal women who exercised five times a week lost bone mass at a rate 3-and-a-half times slower than those that didn’t.
New research has also found that while we diet, we often see a reduction in our resting metabolic rate and weight training may be the answer to this too! This research may explain why it’s sometimes difficult to keep weight off, as a reduced metabolic rate lowers the number of calories we burn. The study followed 14 contestants from the US show The Biggest Loser six years after the show and found that all but one of the contestants had regained the weight they had previously lost. The findings of this study show that dieting alone may not be enough, and the solution to this problem could be to build up muscle mass, which is lost as we age. This can be achieved by aerobic exercises and strength training.
Scroll down to find out how gentle resistance training could help your body.
How does lifting weights help reduce osteoporosis?
While it might sound counter-productive at first, studies have shown that lifting weights on a regular basis helps prevent osteoporosis-related bone fractures. Lifting weights – even light ones – prevents the natural bone loss that occurs as we age. In fact, some scientists believe that using weights can even build new bone. What’s more, weight training helps improve your body’s balance and posture by strengething muscle – crucial for minimising the possibility of a bone-breaking fall.
Does it burn as many calories as cardio?
While there’s no denying that watching the calorie counter tick up and up on the cross trainer is incredibly satisfying, weight training makes your body burn calories over a longer period of time even after you’ve finished exercising. Gram for gram, muscle tissue burns more calories than fat. So, by building muscle, you’ll build a body that burns more calories 24/7.
Won’t weights make me bulky?
There’s a common – and understandable – misconception that weight training can make women look manly. The simple answer here is that it’s just not true. Women’s bodies just don’t contain the levels of testosterone needed to build bulky muscle. That’s why men build muscle relatively easily, while for women it can take years of heavy weight training and an incredibly protein-rich diet. So, don’t worry – you won’t end up looking like a leather-skinned bodybuilder.
How can I make it as safe as possible?
To avoid straining yourself or causing an injury, it’s absolutely essential to book a session with a qualified personal trainer before you start using weights. They can teach you how to use the weights most effectively for your specific personal needs.
I’m worried about an injury – can I still use weights?
Again, it’s very important to check in with a doctor and qualified trainer before you start weight training. If you’re going to a class like Bodypump, tell the instructor any injuries you have, to allow them to modify any moves that could hurt you.
I find the weights section at the gym really scary though…
Weight training doesn’t just have to happen in the iron-pumping zone at your local gym. For something more gentle and relaxing, try reformer Pilates or a TRX class. In these classes, you’ll use your own bodyweight to perform exercise to gently but effectively strengthen muscles all over your body. Reformer Pilates is similar to regular Pilates, but uses pulleys and a sliding board to make your muscles contract even harder. If you’d rather work out at home, buy yourself a pair of dumbells (2 or 3kg is a good place to start) and you’re ready to go.
Try these moves to reap the bone-strengthening benefits of weight bearing exercise:
Bicep dumbell curl
You know this one: stand or sit, holding a dumbell in each hand. One arm at a time, raise each dumbell up, bending at the elbow.
Seated shoulder press
Sit down, and hold a dumbell in each hand at shoulder level. Raise your arms above your head. Repeat 8 times.
Hold a dumbell in each hand. Step one leg back, and bend the supporting leg at a 90-degree angle. Step your legs back together again, and repeat 8 times on each side.
Standing with your legs shoulder-width apart, hold a dumbell in each hand. Bend your elbows slightly, and raise your arms out to the side while keeping your elbows locked.