Training with weights is one of the smartest things you can do for your health.
If you're looking to whittle your waistline - or any of your lines - then weight training will help. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine found that participants who did aerobic and resistance training reported eating significantly fewer calories a day compared to those who only did aerobic training.
Resistance training boosts the body's capacity to break down food and stabilise blood sugar, and seems to increase feelings of satiety, all of which may make you less likely to reach for a sugar-loaded snack.
"When you lift weights, the proteins that are in the muscle break down," says Dr Vanessa Rice, an exercise physiologist and senior lecturer at Australian Catholic University.
"When you have that 24-hour recovery period, the proteins [then] recover and contribute to an increase in the muscle size. The process is: break down, rest and rebuild. This is why your metabolism speeds up during the period after working out."
Overloading the muscles in this way also makes us stronger - and stronger is better.
"It allows us to move and function more efficiently throughout the day, and to protect our joints, so that they can tolerate the loads we place on them from day to day. That doesn't necessarily have to be exercise, it can be the day-to-day demands, such as walking up flights of stairs."
For many women, osteoporosis prevention is one of the best reasons to lift weights. Weight training places demands on bones "which is quite important for osteoporosis protection", Rice says.
Weight training also helps keep us upright as we age. "Research has found that as we age, if we've been doing strength training, it protects us from falls," she says.
It's never too late to start.
Ella Conroy, a personal trainer and the director of Vision Personal Training in Sydney, says the younger you are when you start weight training, the better. "However, you will benefit greatly starting this type of training at any age," Conroy says.
Weight training also supports posture and keeps the body upright, which in turn minimises wear and tear.
"Being hunched over puts a lot of pressure on our spinal column and can lead to osteoarthritis and wear and tear on small spinal joints," Rice says. "Because we're all hunched over our desks all day, we're using that strength in our backs to keep us upright."
How often should you train?
Three weight-training sessions a week - which target all the major muscle groups - are recommended for people who are looking to lose weight. This will allow for sufficient recovery time between sessions.
A misconception remains around how long people need to exercise with weights in order to lose weight, says Rob Hale, the head of fitness at leading Australian gym, Fitness First.
"By adding weight to your workout and doing classes focused on three-dimensional exercises that involve the entire body working together, in as little as 30 minutes you can burn 30 per cent more calories compared to more traditional types of cardio training."
Don't forget to take the time to warm up and cool down. "Taking time out before and after our sessions will allow our bodies to recover from each workout," Conroy says. "It will help you to avoid injury and five minutes is all you need before and after your training. Do dynamic stretches to limber up before your workout, and static stretches to cool down."
How heavy should you go?
As a general rule, exercises involving the total body working together or targeting major muscle groups like chest, back and legs require a heavier weight compared to exercises targeting smaller muscles like shoulders, and biceps, Hale says.
"It's not a case of the more weight the better, but it needs to be heavy enough to cause the muscles to adapt and therefore help increase lean muscle."
- Sydney Morning Herald
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