I have a question for you:
Are you strong?
When you think of strength, what comes to mind? Physical strength maybe. Maybe mental strength. Maybe both.
However you define it, there’s a very good chance you’re already strong in a lot of ways. It’s strength that helps us keep our s**t together, right?
It’s strength, physical, mental and emotional, , that helps you get through things like a flooded basement or, say, when your husband dumps old ashes into a plastic trash can and it sets half the garage on fire.
Not that I’m talking about anyone in particular.
And then there’s mental and emotional strength…the ability to get out of bed and face all the Things. Little Things like taking a shower and going to a job you don’t like. Big Things like dealing with an illness or an injury.
Strength is something we all have in a number of ways…but you can be stronger.
This is when we circle back around to lifting weights. Yes, it makes your body strong, all the way from the mitochondria in your cells through your bones, muscles and connective tissue.
Yes, I just said mitochondria.
But, lifting weights goes beyond the body into places you may not be aware of. And if you’re a woman over 40 who’s dealing with perimenopause, weight gain and life all at the same time, lifting weights may just save your sanity.
Why It’s Hard to Lift Weights
First, I want to address the major reason why some people don’t lift weights: It’s exercise.
Like many things related to that word, it feels like a chore. It requires a lot from us: Energy, time and, well, strength that we may not have simply because we haven’t been lifting consistently.
It’s also confusing. What exercises do you do? How many? How often? How do you fit it in when you’re busy? What about the cardio?
Also, people think it doesn’t do much for weight loss because it doesn’t burn as many calories as cardio does.
There are other reasons, of course, but those are the favorites. I can address all of those issues in another article.
What I want to do now is to convince you that lifting weights is worth it. I want you to be stronger. I want you to realize that lifting weights is not a luxury…it’s a necessity.
What you need to know is this: Weight training doesn’t have to be awful and it does much, much more for you than make your muscles strong. In fact, it has benefits you may not even know about.
That’s about to change.
One group of researchers culled through hundreds of studies on weight training and mental health and here’s what they found.
The Hidden Perks of Weight Training
1. Attention and Comprehension
When researchers sifted through these scientific studies, one thing really stood out: Lifting weights improves your cognition.
Cognition is important because it involves your brain’s ability to process what’s going on around you through your thoughts, senses, and experiences.
It’s how we turn experiences into memories and then we can then access those memories to, well, do everything we need to do each day.
Obviously, this is important, but there’s a bigger perk here. Part of cognition is executive function…this is basically the control center in your brain that manages everything you do that requires thinking.
I’m using it right now to write this article.
You use it every day to organize your day, research the best cat litter to buy, or make a grocery list.
Experts have found that everyone can benefit from this, but especially older adults.
In fact, once people start lifting weights, studies show the biggest change is in memory, which is huge.
I think of how much time I spend wandering around my house trying to remember why I went into this room or that room…If I didn’t lift weights, I would probably have total amnesia.
2. Anxiety and Depression
Most of us have experienced both anxiety and depression at some point in our lives and most of us have probably heard about all the things you can do to reduce anxiety, from meditation to medication.
Walking and other aerobic exercise is also a great way to burn off extra tension caused by anxiety as well as lift your mood a little if you’re depressed.
But only recently have scientists realized that lifting weights can reduce the symptoms of both depression and anxiety among healthy adults.
One study performed by Duke University found that depressed participants were able to overcome their depression without medication after lifting 4 times a week for 4 months.
In fact, they found that for every 50 minutes of exercise, the rate of depression decreased by half.
There could be any number of reasons this works:
- The release of endorphins, that lovely hormone that makes us feel good, along with a variety of other hormones that get the body buzzing
- A distraction – Sometimes getting out of your own head can help with depression and doing something that makes you feel confident, like lifting weights, does just that
- It makes you feel less hopeless – If you can strengthen your body, your mind naturally follows. Sometimes taking any action when you’re depressed can be a boost
Doing anything physical can help with both anxiety and depression, but lifting weights gives you the added bonus of adding lean muscle tissue to your body. Double perk!
3. Self- Esteem
Do you have body image issues? If you don’t, I want to be you.
I’ve read umpteen articles on improving body image, but I honestly have never found that staring at my body in the mirror and saying good things about it has ever worked.
I mean, I can’t stare at the cellulite on my thighs and say, “I love you thighs!”
That is a lie.
However, what does work is…yep…lifting weights.
A variety of studies have shown a positive relationship between weight training and self-esteem.
One study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine took two groups of people, one of which started a walking program and the other doing stretching and weight training.
At the end of 6 months, there were significant increases in attractiveness, physical conditioning and self-worth in the group that did the stretching and weights.
The thing is, regular strength training allows you to actually feel your own strength.
You can do more things! You can do more pushups, you can lift heavier weight.
Walking up the stairs with a heavy laundry basket doesn’t suck as much. Other chores like raking leaves or putting out a garage fire become easier.
Nothing boosts confidence more than feeling strong. In fact, strength training is the one thing that has helped me the most in the past couple of years of Weight Gain Extravaganza!
Also known as – Late 40’s + perimenopause.
Looking good is something we all want, but feeling good is priceless. If you’re not lifting weights, there’s no better time to start. Give yourself a good 6 weeks of simple, regular weight training and see what happens.
Need help getting started? I’ve got you covered:
- Virtual Personal Training – If you want a customized program just for you, this is your best bet.
- 8-Week START Program – This program includes both cardio and weight training workouts that are perfect for beginners and get progressively more challenging so you don’t end up miserable.
- Basic Total Body Dumbbell Workout – If you’re ready to start right now, this workout is a good choice. It works all the major muscle groups with simple, easy to follow exercises. Do this workout at least 2 times a week, resting a day or more in between, and you’ll be on your way.
If you need more help, feel free to email me…it’s not always easy getting started, but I can help.
Gothe NP, Mullen SP, Wójcicki TR, et al. Trajectories of change in self-esteem in older adults: exercise intervention effects. J Behav Med. 2011;34(4):298-306. doi:10.1007/s10865-010-9312-6.
McAuley E, Blissmer B, Katula J, Duncan TE, Mihalko SL. Physical activity, self-esteem, and self-efficacy relationships in older adults: A randomized controlled trial. ann behav med. 2000;22(2):131. doi:10.1007/BF02895777.
Why people with depression should lift weights – Philly. http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc/Why-people-with-depression-should-lift-weights.html.