Many people avoid weight training because they mistakenly believe that it will make them gain  or “pack on” weight. As a result, many regular athletes focus on cardiovascular activities and avoid the weight room altogether. Regardless of what you’ve heard or read, sticking to this belief can prevent you from achieving your health and fitness goals and potentially lead to long-term negative health outcomes. In fact, weight training can  help prevent weight gain, improve body composition, and promote long-term benefits. These are some of the reasons why it’s important to incorporate muscle training into your regular exercise routine to reach your health goals.

Increased calorie consumption can result from strength training  due to both the acute effects of training units and the long-term effects of increased muscle mass. While a modest amount of calories can be burned during an exercise session, the benefits extend beyond exercise. In fact, research has shown that calorie expenditure can remain high for several days after a workout. One study found that a single resistance training session resulted in a 5% increase in  energy expenditure at rest, which remained elevated for up to 72 hours. Constant strength training has also been found to increase resting metabolic rate in young and old adults by approximately 7%. In addition to the post-workout benefits, the increased muscle mass from strength training stimulates metabolism, as muscle mass requires more energy to maintain tissue. Therefore, consistent resistance training can ultimately help you burn more calories throughout the day and thus achieve your weight loss goals.

Body composition is the relative ratio of fat mass to lean mass (consisting of muscles, bones, organs, water, and connective tissue). A sedentary lifestyle, poor nutrition, aging and many chronic diseases can lead to loss of muscle  and bone mass, as well as an increase in fat mass. Muscle training can stop or reverse these changes, resulting in increased muscle mass, maintenance or improvement of bone mineral density, and fat loss. Because of these changes, tracking changes in body composition over time may make more sense than measuring body weight, because weight can remain stable as muscle mass increases and fat decreases. For example, researchers reported a 6.8-pound decrease in fat mass along with a 4.4-pound increase in lean mass with no change in body weight after a 26-week resistance training program in older adults. This research also shows that you don’t have to worry about “recharging.” Unless you exercise, eat, and take supplements specifically to maximize muscle size and weight gain, you will not experience this effect. Instead,  resistance training can help you reshape your body, gain muscle definition, and maintain a healthy weight by changing your body composition by increasing muscle mass and reducing fat.

While even low intensity muscle training can have positive effects, greater  improvements  in strength are noted with increasing training intensity. Loss of strength with increasing age is associated with functional deficiencies, slower walking speed, increased risk of falls, loss of independence, hospitalization, and poor quality of life. Because peak strength peaks around  age 30 and declines around age 50, strength training is an essential part of a comprehensive fitness program at any age to maintain and improve your body.

In addition to weight, body composition, and strength-related results, strength training can  have beneficial effects on many other health outcomes. Research has shown that resistance training can help prevent and treat many chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Additionally, weight training has been linked to positive mental health outcomes, including better cognition, self-esteem, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Resistance training is an essential part of a complete fitness program. Whether your goal is to improve weight or body composition, increase strength and function, or improve overall health, strength training can help you achieve that goal. If you are new to resistance training, start slowly with a lower resistance and gradually progress over time.

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