Category: Weight Training Articles

3 Hidden Benefits of Strength Training

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.

Sources:

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.

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Lessons in Weight Loss – It’s Not Just a Numbers Game

With my job as a trainer and a fitness writer I almost can’t get through a single day without typing or thinking about the words ‘weight loss.’

If you’re trying to lose weight, you may not be able to get through a day without thinking about those words, either.

And when you think about weight loss, you probably think it should be pretty simple…you know the whole ‘if you burn 3500 extra calories you’ll lose one pound of fat’ deal? Dieting, exercising, stepping on the scale…it’s all part of the lather-rinse-repeat process right?

But, if you’re not losing weight or the changes are happening too slowly for the human eye to detect, what then? Is it really just about dieting and exercising?

If it were, we’d have this weight loss thing licked.

If you’ve been on the weight loss/weight gain loop for too long, you may need to change the way you think about losing weight.

What’s in a Number?

We often look at weight loss as a numbers game. If you burn and/or cut ‘x’ number of calories from your diet, you should see ‘x’ number of pounds drop from the scale.

And, of course, a lot of us feel like we need to track these numbers just to see if we’re doing it right.

Calorie-tracking feels like a full-time job, doesn’t it? A job you hate and don’t get paid for. You have to write down what you’re eating and find out how many calories are in each thing. You have to monitor your exercise intensity and see how many calories you’re burning.

Then you step on the scale and voila! Wait…whoa…no. Really?

Actually, it’s more like, “I lost .3 pounds after eating lettuce and lemon wedges for 3 DAYS?! You’re going down, bitch!”

Yes, the results can be excruciatingly slow.

A Different Way to Look at Weight Loss

Okay, let’s step back from the scale (she’s a big fat liar anyway) and let’s come at this weight loss thing from a different direction.

What if what really changes that number on the scale comes down to one little thing:

Choice

What if it’s not about ‘x’ calories this and ‘x’ calories that, but about you choosing a glass of water here and a walk outside there?

What if it comes down to your choice to move more and eat less?

It’s simplistic, I know and I also know what you’re thinking. The choice to take that walk or drink that water doesn’t feel very choicy, does it? It feels like a chore. Something we have to do if we want to lose weight.

Just to be clear, yes you do need to exercise and do something about your diet if you want to lose weight, that isn’t going to change.

But what you can change is your approach to it. Because there is a way to do this without it feeling like someone’s taken away all your favorite toys and given you a box of switches in return.

That was what my grandfather used to threaten me with if I wasn’t a good girl before Christmas. A switch, if you don’t know, is a tree branch used for whuppins. (First, that’s a southern thing and, second, my grandfather never once whupped me or gave me a box of switches. RIP Granddaddy! I’m still a little brat).

Change Your Mind

Your mind is in charge of most of this weight loss thing, which means your perspective on how to lose weight, how to diet and exercise, plays a major role in how successful you are.

If these choices feel more like restrictions, you’re always going to feel like you’re missing out on something and, therefore, you’ll always go back to those things you think you’re missing.

But what if there’s a different way? What if these choices weren’t chores or restrictions, but based on one thing. The one thing most of us are terrible at doing: Taking care of yourself.

If you think about it, all the things you need to do to lose weight are also all the things you need to do to take care of yourself: Eating when you’re hungry, stopping when you’re full, eating foods that give you energy and make you feel good.

Taking care of yourself means moving your body and getting out of your chair as much as possible, simply because your body feels better when it’s moving.

Taking care of yourself means getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, dealing with your stress in healthy ways…all things that, when accomplished, can also lead to healthy, natural weight loss.

Learning how to take care of yourself is an important part of the weight loss process. And here’s the thing: You can’t fix all these at one time and please don’t try because you’ll just drive yourself crazy.

If you’ve gained weight it’s because you’ve been following some habits for awhile, probably a long time. If you want to lose weight, it’s also going to take time to change those habits.

So, rather than try to change your life in one day, I have two things you can do right now to start changing your perspective on yourself and losing weight.

2 Steps to Start Taking Better Care of Yourself

  1. Know where you are – Do you even know how well you’re taking care of yourself? You’re probably too busy to really think about it and, like most of us, you’re probably doing some healthy things (I ate a salad!) and some iffy things (I had 3 glasses of wine!). It isn’t always easy facing the reality of our choices but think about it like an experiment. This isn’t to make you feel guilty – You probably do that all on your own (stop it! All this stuff isn’t easy, you know). So, here’s a challenge: Try keeping a simple health journal – I really like this one or just grab some paper and make your own. Keep track of things like sleep, exercise, meals, water intake and general energy levels and stress. No judgment allowed. After a week, notice if just knowing you have to write these things down makes a difference in how you take care of yourself. If you haven’t improved, I’ll eat my hair. Okay, no I’m not doing that.
  2. Check in with yourself – Taking care of yourself starts with being aware of how you feel throughout the day. This is especially important if you tend to eat when you’re not hungry, like I do. Like when you’re bored, lonely, guilty, stressed, binge-watching Game of Thrones…we all do it. But it’s not just that. It’s being aware of what’s going on with you. Are you tired? Thirsty? Need a break or a change of scenery? Here’s your next challenge: Set an alarm to go off every hour and just stop what you’re doing. Is there something you need? What is it? Maybe you can even write it down in your health journal. Handy, no?

Taking care of yourself isn’t easy. Most of us have been taught to just keep going, no matter what’s going on and it’s always easy to deal with stress and boredom and all that other crap with a quick fix – Doritos, for example. Yum.

It’s not easy to change any of that. But it’s easier when you take it one thing at a time. And for now? That’s finding out where you are so you know where to go.

Go forth, grasshopper.

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