Why lift heavy? Here are five great reasons | Sound Mind Sound Body


How could I have been a fitness trainer for 10 years and never truly realize the importance of lifting heavy weights? I had no idea what I was missing out on.

Prior to COVID-19, I was on repeat: 20-30 minutes of cardio, then maybe lift some weights if I had time. My energy level was already depleted from the cardio training, so my weight lifting was always cut short because I felt like I had already completed my workout.

But … here’s the secret. No matter how much cardio I did, my body never responded to it.

The only thing the cardio training accomplished was a constant ride to the refrigerator or snack cupboard because I was always hungry.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the endorphin release and mental clarity that cardio provides, and I will never discount the heart health that comes from cardio-based exercise.

But, let’s talk about how to truly change your body and your metabolism by picking up heavy things and putting them back down: Lifting heavy. It’s not just for the young, it’s not just for looks and it’s definitely not just picking things up and putting them back down!

Number one reason to lift heavy — increase your muscle mass to make you a calorie-burning machine.

Muscle burns more calories than fat. Or, another way to look at it, muscle takes more calories to maintain than fat. In other words, diet forgiveness.

The more muscle you have on your body, the higher your metabolic burn rate. People with more muscle mass are able to eat more and require a higher calorie load to maintain their physique.

For example, let’s take person A who has a skeletal muscle mass composition of 63 pounds versus person B, with a skeletal muscle mass composition of 45 pounds.

Person A has more muscle on their body, which takes more calories to maintain the muscle they have. Their body burns more calories at rest than person B because of their higher muscle mass.

Reason number two to lift heavy? Fight back against aging and prevent injury!

From the age of 30 on, you begin to lose as much as 3-5% muscle mass per decade. Decreased muscle mass leads to a higher risk for osteoporosis as well as falls and fractures due to muscle weakness and decreased mobility.

By increasing your muscle mass, you place more compression on your bones which in turn helps them stay stronger and healthier as you age.

Who doesn’t love to turn the clock back on aging?

Weight training not only stresses the muscles to make them grow stronger, but it also stresses the bones which results in the depositing of more bone material, making them stronger.

Reason number three to lift heavy? Ever heard of “after burn”?

When a person performs 20 minutes of cardio, their body only burns calories during the workout and for a very short time afterward. However, when performing 20 minutes of weight lifting, your body may continue to burn calories up to 38 hours after weight training.

I don’t know about you, but I love the idea of burning extra calories in my sleep because I chose to lift some heavy weights!

Reason number four to lift heavy? Gain confidence. This in turn will decrease anxiety, ease depression and increase happiness.

According to the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, strength training is associated with reductions in pain intensity among patients with low back pain.

It also improves cognition among older adults along with improvements in sleep quality and reduces symptoms of depression.

When you are stronger it shows from the inside out. This is contradictory to the old school thought that lifting heavy weights was just for aesthetics.

Reason number five to lift heavy? Increase your endurance for all other aspects of life.

Still love cardio no matter how much I try to convince you to start lifting weights? Well, adding weights to your routine will improve your endurance which will pay off the next time you take a spin class or head out for a run or jump in the pool for a swim! Training for a marathon? Hit the weight room to see bigger gains in your running time trials.

Now of course there are some common misconceptions with heavy lifting. “I don’t want to bulk up!” I hear this one all the time, especially from women.

It turns out you’re in luck. It takes a lot of hours spent in the gym to truly gain the so-called “bulk” that women are scared of gaining. Instead, by lifting heavier weights at least 3-5 times a week, you will start to gain lean muscle mass which is the key to becoming a fat burning machine.

So how heavy is heavy? “Heavy” means heavy enough to present a challenge but not so heavy that it compromises your lifting form.

Always consult your doctor before starting any new exercise routine or fitness regime. And, if you are unfamiliar with gym equipment or where to start when lifting weights, always ask a personal trainer to get you started in the right direction.

If you’re new to a lifting class, let the instructor know as they are more than happy to assist you and guide you for maximum success!

Hillary Pumphrey has a bachelor’s degree in food science and nutrition and has been teaching fitness classes for a little over 12 years now. Hillary has been working at Walla Walla YMCA for over 10 years.


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