When I first started playing sports, the idea of a girl lifting weights was laughable. The only girls who did were the rowers and field athletes– everyone else thought it was manly, and my secondary school weights room was literally only for boys. The main gym was mostly cardio equipment, and without a doubt cardio was what was expected of the girls, if they went to the gym at all. Seven years on and the attitudes towards women being fit and healthy rather than skinny have changed so much. The rise of social media stars who incorporate weights into their routines has undoubtedly helped. But what are the benefits of lifting weights, and why do people swear by them for getting in shape?
Nb/ As a disclaimer I’d like to say that I also condemn those who shame anyone who does cardio – there are health benefits to all exercises, and I for one love a good sweat session. However, this post will be focussing on the health benefits of lifting weights. If you’d like to read more about cardio, please check out my post on how to get better at running.
- It’ll strengthen your bones
Most of us don’t think of our bones as living things, but they are. They respond to how we live, especially when we are young. As we get older, our bones lose density, becoming more brittle and prone to osteoporosis (this is why older people are more likely to break and fracture bones). If you lift weights, your bone density increases, meaning you’re in a better position to protect yourself from these issues later in life.
- It’ll make you happier
Whilst all physical activity is great for mental health, strength training has been linked to lower levels of anxiety and depression, as well as fatigue. In addition to the benefits of just getting moving, watching yourself progress with strength training can help you focus in other areas of life and give you a sense of achievement.
- It’ll give you a higher BMR
Your BMR is your basal metabolic rate. It’s the rate at which you burn calories when you’re doing absolutely nothing. So not only will lifting weights burn calories when you’re doing it, lifting also increases your muscle to fat ratio, meaning that you’ll burn more calories just lying there. And guess what that means… More food!
- It helps other sports
If you’re not lifting weights because you’re focusing on other sports, you could be harming your progress rather than helping it. Lifting weights strengthens both supporting muscles and the muscles you may use for your sport, meaning that whatever you do, lifting weights can help you do it harder, faster and better. It’s one form of cross training you don’t want to miss out on.
- It doesn’t take a long time
If you’re short on time, having a 30 minute workout is perfectly fine when lifting weights. My glutes sessions are around 40 minutes long, but when time-restricted 30 minutes works absolutely fine. Lifting can work around your schedule in a way that running a 5k can’t.
- Muscle is denser than fat
But what does this actually mean? It means that if you do lots of strength training and gain some muscle, it’ll take up less space than fat does. This is what allows people to get leaner leaner when they weightlift. You may not weigh less, but you’ll definitely look like you do! This is also why lifting weights as a girl certainly won’t make you look bulky. Whilst you probably shouldn’t be doing something purely because of aesthetics, there’s nothing wrong with wanting some toned curves!
- It’s good for your heart
Cardiovascular exercise is undoubtedly excellent for your heart health, but lifting weights has similar benefits. It can lower blood pressure as effectively as cardio and can mean you’re at lower risk of heart disease, stroke and heart attack. The American Heart Association recommends at least 2 strength training sessions a week.
- It doesn’t require much space
Whilst getting to the gym is useful if you want to lift heavy, if you’re short on time and space, you can do bodyweight resistance training at home. Also when your gym is super busy, getting on all the machines can be a nightmare, but grabbing some dumbells and a small space for a mat is sometimes all you need. Lack of time/space isn’t an excuse here!
- It’ll help you sleep
All exercise can help with sleep – those who exercise frequently report the best sleep, both in terms of length and quality. In addition, getting good sleep helps with muscle growth, so the two work together perfectly. Do more of one and you’ll get more of the other. It’s a win-win!
- You’ll live longer (and heathier)
All of the factors above lead to a reduced risk of disease, meaning you’ll live longer, healthier and happier. What’s not to love?!