Five reasons to lift weights

Think weightlifting is just for boys? On the contrary, says personal trainer Graeme Marsh, it could be the best thing you ever do for your body and your mind. Here are five reasons to pick up the dumb-bells

1. It beats aerobic training hands down for fat loss

A US study showed that, even when they were performed at the same intensity (ie, the same amount of oxygen was consumed), weight training had a greater effect on the metabolism, and burned more calories for hours afterwards. This is because, when you lift weights, you are not only using a lot more of the muscle at a greater intensity, but also building new muscle. And, of course, the more muscle you have, the more fat you burn.

2. It will make you stronger and fitter

I am often amazed at people who can run for miles but can barely pick up a heavy bag,’ says Marsh. That’s because aerobic activity (like running and step classes) burns a lot of calories but doesn’t build muscle, so you’re actually getting weaker. In US research, women who lifted weights performed best in tests of strength and power. The aerobically trained group did worst. So, for real fitness benefits, do both.

3. It strengthens bones

Intensity is everything. It’s better to do between three and weight reps with a heavier weight than 20 with a light one. Do it with enough weight and you can significantly increase your bone mass. The exercises best suited to this are those that make the body work harder, such as squats and lunges using weights. This provides valuable protection against osteoporosis, which affects one woman in three over the age of 50.

4. It improves your mood, confidence and well-being

Countless studies are showing that not only can weight training improve your body, but it can also make a real difference to your state of mind. Lifting weights develops confidence, and has been shown in some cases to be as effective as drug therapy in improving depression and anxiety. Interestingly, in research done by Professor Maria Fiatarone in Australia, this was particularly the case when subjects lifted heavier weights.

5. It helps prevent illness and aids recovery

One study found that women who had breast cancer surgery had greater strength and less fatigue after resistance training. It also helps with diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, MS, arthritis and many more conditions that can severely affect the quality of life. Just remember to get clearance from your doctor before starting any exercise.

Weight training for women: the essentials

1. Do less repetition with heavier weights to improve your muscle tone and strength without bulking up.

2. Vary your programme, or your body will adapt to it and it will stop giving you results. Change it every four to six weeks for optimal results.

3. Do your resistance training before your 45-minute run. Running will use up your energy reserves, leaving you too tired to do our weight training with enough intensity to get the best from it.

4. Before beginning a weight-training programme, make sure you get some professional help with techniques in order to safeguard against injury.

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