Throughout my fitness career I feel like the question most asked by clients is whether they should focus on cardio or weight training for best results. First, let me say that cardio can be a component to any fitness program. Cardio strengthens your heart, helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, improves lung capacity, and can help boost your mood. However, when it comes to truly changing the way your body looks and improving your overall health, weight training is still the number one choice. Below are just four of the countless physical and overall health benefits of weight training.
#1 – Weight Training Boosts Metabolism
Weight training creates an afterburn that cardio does not. In fact, within seconds of completing your cardio workout, your body stops burning calories. However, strength training has been proven to continue to elevate one’s resting metabolism for up to 38 hours after the workout has ended. Studies have also shown that women who strength train at least three days a week show a 4-9% boost in their overall resting metabolism after only a few months. This means that your body is able to burn an extra 4-9% of the calories you consume each day without any additional effort.
#2 – Weight Training Keeps Your Bones Strong and Healthy
As we age, our bones naturally become weaker leading to more frequent injuries. In fact, after the age of 40 most people begin losing about 1% of their bone mass each year making them more susceptible to fractures and breaks. This is where weight training comes in!
Several studies have shown that regular strength training sessions can not only help slow the rate at which we lose bone mass, it can actually help build stronger, denser bones. Exercises performed during strength training sessions enhance strength and stability in the spine, hips, wrists, and ankles making the bones in those areas stronger and better equipped to handle impact. This means a stronger body, both inside and out.
#3 – Weight Training Improves Sleep and Energy Levels
If you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep, you may want to up your weight training game! Recent studies have linked strength training with better shut eye claiming that even one session per week can positively impact the body’s sleep patterns leading to a deeper sleep with fewer instances of awakening. Meaning, you wake up feeling rested and ready to take on the day. In addition, weight training has been shown to boost endorphin levels, improving your overall mood and increasing your energy.
#4 – Weight Training Increases Memory and Mental Focus
Although any exercise can help boost mental focus, weightlifting has recently made some major headway and is linked to improvements in cognitive function, focus, long-term and short-term memory, and reasoning. Scientists are still conducting studies to find out exactly how this impact is possible, but most currently believe the connection lies in the cognitive demands of strength training. Unlike cardio, when lifting weights, one must plan their session, be aware of their form, structure their exercises as well as the amount of weight, sets, and reps for each of those exercises. This means the act of lifting weights is far more than a physical one. It takes real brain power to successfully execute a session.
BONUS – Weight Training Changes the Shape of Your Body!
No matter how much cardio you do at the end of your cardio journey you just have a smaller version of the body you started with. For those who truly want to change their body; gain tone, sculpt muscles, have a tinier waist or a round butt, the only way to get there is through weight training. By adding in a strength training session a minimum of three days a week, you can completely change the way every inch of your body is shaped, and for the most part, you can sculpt it to your liking – growing, or shrinking areas that cardio by itself just can’t do. So, if you truly want to see positive changes when you look in the mirror, cut down on the amount of time you spend doing cardio and pick up some weights. Trust me, you’ll thank me later!