Gaining muscle comes with a slew of great health benefits. Not only does strength training give you sculpted arms and a big, wide back, but it can also increase your metabolism, help you lose weight, and even extend your life. Weight lifting is so important, in fact, that some health experts recommend prioritizing it over cardio. “Above all, however, always lift weights more often than doing cardio. The repeated impact of running, linear motion of biking, swimming or rowing, and endless creations of the same movement pattern and ROM can create muscle imbalances over time that can lead to joint problems,” Lee Boyce, a strength coach, wrote in a Men’s Fitness article.
That means it’s time to take a break from the treadmill, and pick up a pair of dumbbells instead. Here are four ways your strength-training regimen improves your health.
1. It speeds up your metabolism and aids in weight loss
Cardio might seem like the way to go when it comes to weight loss, but a little extra muscle mass can do far more than any elliptical machine. WebMD notes that in addition to making you look more in shape, building muscle also helps your body burn more calories — long after your workout is over. “Three to four hours after a strength-training workout, you’re still burning calories,” Debbie Seibers, a certified fitness trainer, told WebMD.
Muscle is able to increase your metabolism because it’s made of metabolically active tissue, Men’s Fitness explains. This means your muscles require energy to be built, used, and maintained, which results in a steady calorie burn. The alternative to muscle is fat tissue, which doesn’t do anything other than sit there. We pick muscle mass over fat tissue any day!
2. It helps you live longer
A strength training program can add years to your life. A 2014 study conducted by UCLA revealed that the more muscle mass older Americans have, the less likely they are to die prematurely. Dr. Arun Karlamangla, the study’s co-author, noted that “the greater your muscle mass, the lower your risk of death. Thus, rather than worrying about weight or body mass index, we should be trying to maximize and maintain muscle mass.”
Forbes explains that the average 30 to 35 year old experiences a 25% decline in his muscle strength and tone by the time he reaches between 70 and 75. But if you start a strength training regimen now and work to build, not lose, your muscle mass, you can ensure your bones remain strong, which is a key way to reduce the risk of fractures caused by osteoporosis. In addition, AZCentral.com reports that a study conducted by the University of Florida discovered that weight lifters have a lower risk of developing cancer. This is a result of having less oxidative cell damage, a factor that can lead to cancer, compared to non-lifters.
3. It protects your joints
The more muscle you have, the less strain you’re putting on your joints and connective tissue, states Reader’s Digest. Interestingly, a study published in the Journal of Rheumatology discovered that when people suffering from knee joint pain performed weight-lifting exercises, they had a 43% reduction in pain after only four months. Furthermore, study participants were also better at performing daily tasks.
FitDay adds that muscles act as shock absorbers and take stress off your joints. This means that more muscle equals more protection for your joints. If you’d like to start building more muscle mass, check out FitDay’s strength-training exercises. These moves are designed to protect the joints and alleviate pain from those that may already be stressed.
4. It’s good for your heart
People often do cardio in hopes it will improve their heart health, but weight lifting can also keep your ticker in tip-top shape. Research conducted at Appalachian State University revealed that resistance training has some similar effects as aerobic exercise in lowering a person’s blood pressure. Moreover, the study found that resistance training resulted in as much as a 20% decrease in a person’s blood pressure. “Resistance exercise increases blood flow which reduces blood pressure,” Dr. Scott Collier, the lead investigator of the study, said in a press release.