Weight lifting—the prescription drug of the future. The key to rehab, wellness, injury/disease prevention, and longevity. The missing component in so many people’s exercise regimens and lifestyles. Yet it’s still SO misunderstood and underutilized. What’s all the hype about anyway? And why aren’t more people doing it? Let’s dive in.
First, there are a few myths that need to be debunked about weight lifting.
- Weight lifting makes you bulky. WRONG. I hear this in my office almost daily. Many people (mostly women) are afraid to pick up the weights because they don’t want to “bulk up” or look “manly”. The truth is that many of the beefy, muscular people you see devote a TON of time and effort to look like that. They spend hours in the gym, eat a crazy amount of food, and often are supplementing or taking performance enhancing drugs. Not to mention, women just don’t have the testosterone needed to put on that much muscle mass. I promise you, looking like a bodybuilder doesn’t just “happen” to the average person who decides to pick up some weights.
- Lifting weights doesn’t burn as many calories. Many people feel discouraged after a weight lifting session when they look at their Apple watch or fitness tracker to find that they didn’t burn as many calories or leave as sweaty as they normally do in their HIIT classes. So they jump to the conclusion that it just isn’t as good of a workout or that they need to follow it up with some intense cardio. While it is often true that weight lifting doesn’t burn as many calories during the workout as cardio, it causes you to burn more calories at rest and throughout your day than any other type of exercise. This is because increasing your amount of lean muscle mass ramps up your body’s metabolic demand and therefore increases your basal metabolic rate (BMR). So it’s less about the calories you burn during the workout and more about your overall metabolism throughout the day.
- You shouldn’t lift weights if you’re injured or have back pain. Honestly, nothing could be further from the truth! In reality, strength training is one of the BEST things you can do if you have an injury or history of an injury. Weight lifting builds stronger muscles and bones and makes your body more resilient to life’s demands. It can not only help you recover from an injury, but it can also help prevent future injuries. I would even argue that many people have back pain or an injury in the first place because they HAVEN’T been strength training. So don’t let an old, crusty doctor tell you that deadlifting is bad for your back or that you should never lift overhead again if you’ve had neck pain. Get after those weights and watch your pain dramatically change.
Now that we’ve dispelled a few common myths, let’s talk about some of the incredible benefits of strength training.
- Improved body composition. Weight lifting is the most powerful tool (in addition to nutrition, of course) to improve your body composition. If you have the goal of toning up, losing fat, losing weight, or achieving muscle hypertrophy, weight lifting is your vehicle to get there. I hate to break it to you, but doing five HIIT classes a week is NOT going to get you toned or help you build a booty.
- Improved metabolism. As we mentioned before, having lean muscle mass increases your body’s energy demands, thus driving up your basal metabolic rate (BMR). In other words, having muscle means you burn more calories at rest than you would otherwise. So if you like the sound of burning more calories while doing absolutely nothing, weight lifting is for you.
- Increased bone density. A common occurrence in aging is the loss of bone mass, which can lead to osteoporosis. Osteoporosis increases your risk of fractures and falls as you get older and can have a significant impact on your quality of life. The amazing news is that strength training can increase your bone density and ultimately slow or even prevent osteoporosis as you get older.
- Hormone regulation. Not only can muscle mass regulate sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone, which have a direct impact on mood, energy levels, and sexual function, but it can also increase your body’s insulin sensitivity. This. Is. MAJOR. Studies show that nearly HALF of Americans ages 18-44 have insulin resistance, which is a precursor to metabolic syndrome as well as most cancers, diabetes, Alzehimer’s disease, and cardiovascular disease. These are currently the leading causes of death in America, and I can’t help but wonder how many of these deaths could be prevented by more people picking up a weight from time to time. This is proof that the advantages of weight lifting go far, far beyond any aesthetic benefits.
- Injury prevention. As chiropractors and physical therapists, we see this in our office on the daily. Having strong bones and muscles makes you more resilient to life’s demands, improves your posture, and helps you recover faster from injuries. Many of our patients are shocked to find out that the tight muscles they’ve been trying to stretch forever with no success respond much quicker and more favorably to strengthening. Sometimes pain or tension is your body begging for strength and stability, not to just be stretched more.
Ok, so have we convinced you yet? We truly believe that everyone, no matter what age or stage of life, should be lifting weights. It has a positive impact on nearly every system in your body and can drastically improve your overall wellbeing and longevity. Personally, I want to be getting out of my chair without assistance and carrying all my groceries inside in one trip until I’m 90, and I know that prioritizing strength training NOW is going to enable me to do that.
If you are someone who is intimidated by the weight room, has been afraid to start lifting weights, or just doesn’t know where to start/needs more structure, we absolutely want to be a resource for you. We have two of our own doctor-developed 12-week strength programs available for purchase here, or feel free to schedule an appointment with either of our providers to get more one-on-one assistance.