If you’ve been steering clear of the weight room and picking spin class over dumbbells, take note: Weights aren’t just for muscle heads, and there are a host of benefits to reap from adding resistance to your workout. For instance, “if you’re running on a treadmill, you’re probably working quadriceps and hamstrings but not challenging major muscles, like the abductor and adductor,” says Dr. Kathy Gaul, a professor at the School of Exercise Science, Physical & Health Education at the University of Victoria.
Strength training does more than increase muscle mass: “It also raises your body’s metabolic rate, making you burn fat quicker, since its effects last longer than cardio alone,” says Jenna Kong Kam Wa, owner and personal trainer at Parallel Fitness in the Greater Toronto Area.
Researchers at the University of Sydney recently found that those who did strength-promoting exercises were 31 percent less likely to die from cancer. Plus, a study of over 35,000 women published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise showed those who strength train had a 17 percent lower risk of heart disease and 30 percent lower risk of Type 2 diabetes. It can also fight the risk of dementia and reduce symptoms of depression.
If that’s not enough to get you lunging, consider this: You begin losing muscle mass in your 30s — up to 25 percent by age 70 — as well as bone density, which can contribute to aches and injuries. Disuse is at play in a lot of this decline, but studies show strength and power can be regained through training. For maximum payoff, do exercises that engage multiple muscle groups, and try to tailor your workout to your age.