Every year, more gyms and health clubs open up to accommodate the growing number of clientele interested in various workouts. However, weight lifting is yet to be recognised and embraced by the average gym goer for all its benefits.
Clara Ntalo, like a large number of women had bought into the misconception that weight lifting was reserved for a certain class of men until circumstances forced her to try it out. “I was always weary of weight lifting because I thought it would bulk up my body and make it look masculine.
But after spending hours at the gym and not seeing any progress, I talked to my instructor about my frustrations and he advised me to try weight lifting,” Ntalo relates. Ntalo says in a few weeks, she realised her body was becoming tighter and shapely, just the way she wanted it.
“The beauty about weight lifting is that it allows you to work on a specific body part. For instance, if you want to tighten your bum, you do squats and deadlifts and if you want to tone your arms and the back, shoulder presses and pull-ups are effective. But most importantly the results are more visible and faster than say using the treadmill,” says Ntalo.
While it is easy to see the physical benefits of weight lifting, the mental and emotional health benefits remain widely obscure. Fitness experts reveal weight lifting is great for your mental and emotional health.
Endorphins and happiness
If you are prone to stress depression and worry, Abbey Sozzi, a former weight lifting champion and manager at Acorns gym in Ntinda, recommends weight lifting because it releases endorphins, the neurochemicals produced by pituitary glands and the nervous system. “Endorphins induce pleasure and regulate your mood while norepinephrine, significantly improves the ability of your brain to cope with stress,” Sozzi says.
Endurance activities, such as weight lifting are effective in creating resilience and self-discipline. Weight lifting requires you to commit to a particular diet that might be different from what you are used to. Many trainers advise lifters to include a protein source with every meal and any snacks in between meals should also be rich in protein, which helps to repair muscle cells when broken down into amino acids.
They recommend whole grains as well as green and some starchy vegetables such as sweet potato which are rich in complex carbohydrates needed to delay the onset of muscle fatigue an essential step to prevent the body from burning useful sources of fuel, such as protein.
“It is not just the diet and nutrition but other aspects such as time management and commitment to schedule. This training eventually starts being reflected in the individual’s other aspects of life, such as their attitude towards work and relationships. For instance, when things feel impossible, they are more able to maintain composure and reach new levels of emotional and mental strength,” Sozzi relates.
Heart and brain
Various studies show lifting weights as frequently as twice a week is good for the heart and brain functions. According to a study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, less than an hour of weekly exercise reduces risk of developing metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and elevated blood sugar that raise risk of heart disease) by up to 70 per cent.
Another one suggests that, in older adults, lifting weights can improve and delay the decline in memory, attention and decision making.
One clinical trial, entitled the SMART (Study of Mental and Resistance Training) study, analysed people with mild cognitive impairment, a syndrome where there is a slight but noticeable decline in cognitive abilities.
Compared to brain training alone, weight lifting combined with brain training led to improved cognitive function, with benefits maintained for 18 months afterward.
“This is because during the session, you are focused solely on the task at hand, your mind detached from anything else. As you focus on the weight of the load you need to overcome, the tension in your muscles as they contract to generate force, you fall into a meditative state that allows the brain to disengage from negative thoughts,” Sozzi notes.
All these positive changes both physical and mental help in boosting the individual’s self-confidence.
Weightlifting can be a social activity. You may be able to find a partner or small group of friends with whom you can train. Even if you train on your own, you may be able to meet new people and train with others in your gym. For those who don’t have active social or work lives, training can provide social interaction, which you otherwise may miss out.