This just in: Eating our way to a healthy heart has never been easier. See Harvard Medical School's new go-to guide for making heart-healthy food choices, one meal at a time.
20 Reasons to Start Strength Training
Want a life with less stress, better sleep, a toned body, and an extra dose of optimism? Then don’t live another day without strength training! The benefits of routinely pumping iron can go above and beyond getting buff n’ tough.
The Pick-Me-Ups — Your Action Plan
1. Rev metabolism. After a few dates with some dumbbells, both guys and gals will notice an increase in resting metabolic rate  . And with the right diet, routine lifting may even help shed a few pesky pounds more effectively than cardio alone.
2. Tone up. Whether the goal is bulking up or leaning out, there’s a lifting regimen that will deliver optimal results. Remember that muscle mass also declines as we age, and while weight training can be effective for virtually all ages, consider picking up those dumbbells in your body's prime.
3. Bulletproof the body. Lifting weights is key to staying injury-free. A little weighted action works out the tendons and ligaments that support our muscles— making sports and other daily movin’ and groovin’ worry-free!
6. Beat out boredom. Muscles need time to recover, so switching up that strength training routine is a must. Give the legs some love on one day, and follow with upper-body action the next. Working out will never get repetitive!
7. Boost self-esteem. Exercise the ego: Lifting can help improve a person’s body image . Plus, it feels great to track progress and see gains in weight and reps.
8. Up that I.Q. Hitting the books isn’t the only way to pass that exam— strength training can also sharpen the mind (no pencil sharpener necessary).
9. Strengthen bones. Grab some weights to avoid getting stuck in a sling. Those bones will toughen up, which will lower the risk for fractures . After all, not everyone’s up for chugging three glasses of milk a day.
10. Lose the limitations. Drop down and give me 20— anywhere. Resistance training doesn’t require a gym membership, let alone a set of dumbbells or fancy machines. There are plenty of ways to strength train right at home with little to no equipment.
11. Perk up that ‘tude. Unhappy at work? Studies show lifting can have psychological benefits, including feeling more positive at the office . No need to call in “sick” ever again!
12. Increase flexibility. There are other ways to get limber besides yoga (although we do love a little downward dog). Over time, resistance training can help improve flexibility; ladies, lifting every other day for eight weeks is all it takes. .
13. Cut down cancer risk. One study found strength training three times a week for six months led to reduced oxidative stress, which can lessen our cancer risk. So get lifting and fuel up with antioxidants to double-team disease.
16. Catch those zzz’s with ease. There are many well-known remedies to help us fall asleep— like sipping herbal tea and taking a hot shower. And while exercise in general has been shown to help make snoozing a breeze, studies suggest weight lifting in particular can lead to a better night’s sleep .
17. Build trust. We often need spotters, especially at the bench press (a bar to the face or neck is never good). Naturally, relying on others for our own safety in the gym can instill trust in a kick-butt kind of way.
18. Jump-start power. Eager to improve performance in the gym and on the track? An extra dose of dumbbells can really work fast-twitch muscles, the speedy muscle fibers responsible for generating power.
19. Sneak in some cardio. Hate the dreadmill? A fast-paced resistance workout can keep the heart rate up and can even count as cardio (provided those sets move along at a quick enough clip).
20. See results... fast. Need one final incentive to hit the weights? Strength training can offer speedy results. It takes two to three weekly sessions (for less than a month!) to see muscles shape up. Can’t bench press 200 lbs? Not to worry: Lifting lighter weights can also be effective at building muscle, as long as those lifts are tough enough to cause muscle fatigue.
Time for you to weigh in! What are your favorite strength training exercises? And which ones do you dread the most?
- Effect of acute resistance exercise on postexercise oxygen consumption and resting metabolic rate in young women. Osterberg, KL, Melby, CL. Dept. of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 2000 Mar;10(1):71-81.⤴
- Strength training increases resting metabolic rate and norepinephrine levels in healthy 50- to 65-yr-old men. Pratley, R, Nicklas, B, Rubin, M, et al. Department of Medicine, University of Maryland at Baltimore, Maryland. Journal of Applied Physiology, 994 Jan;76(1):133-7.⤴
- Resistance exercise and plasma beta-endorphin/beta-lipotrophin immunoreactivity. Elliot, DL, Goldberg, L, Watts, W.J., et al. Life Science, 1984 Feb 6;34(6):515-8.⤴
- Effects of weight training on the emotional well-being and body image of females: predictors of greatest benefit. Tucker, LA, Maxwell, K. Department of Physical Education, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. American Journal of Health Promotion, 1992 May-Jun;6(5):338-44, 371.⤴
- Muscle training for bone strength. Suominen H. Department of Health Services, University of Jyväskylä, Finland. Aging clinical and experimental research, 2006 Apr;18(2):85-93⤴
- Psychological and physical benefits of circuit weight training in law enforcement personnel. Norvell, N, Belles, D. Department of Law and Mental Health, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 1993 Jun;61(3):520-7.⤴
- Influence of moderately intense strength training on flexibility in sedentary young women. Santos, E, Rhea, M.R., Simao, R, et al. Castelo Branco University, Physical Education Post-Graduation Program in Human Science Motricity, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2010 Nov;24(11):3144-9.⤴
- The effects of a session of resistance training on sleep patterns in the elderly. Viana, V.A., Esteves, A.M., Boscolo R.A., et al. Department of Psychobiology, São Paulo, Brazil. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 2011 Nov 2.⤴