Leave lifting weights to the bros in the gym. That’s honestly what I used to think when I started going to the gym myself. I always thought lifting weights was for the meatheads who loved to have big biceps to impress the ladies, and there seemed no other reason to lift weights—yuck—or drink protein shakes—double yuck. This was, of course, until I tried lifting weights myself and realized the incredible benefits that come from pumping iron on a regular basis. Not only does building muscle make me look amazing, but it also helps with my body’s overall health and longevity. Yeah—you heard that right. So I lift weights. And I drink the shakes—and make protein waffles.
Am I trying to get buff? Gosh, no. I’m more about feeling lean and happy, and when I started evaluating the different reasons why building muscle was important for my body, I decided to do it more regularly.
Don’t get me wrong, eating a consistently healthy diet is still the number one important factor for your body’s health (you can’t out-exercise a bad diet, sorry). But building muscle still is vital and something you should consider doing regularly. Here’s why.
Building muscle helps boost your metabolism.
Yes, it’s true—the two are linked. One study published in the journal Adipocyte found that increasing skeletal muscle mass in one’s body can also help improve insulin sensitivity or glucose metabolism. Meaning that your metabolic rate can improve when you build muscle.
Plus, having a faster metabolism helps with your overall body composition. Clearly, this is a “no duh” type statement because we all know our bodies feel great after a few days of working out. But it’s important to note that your metabolism and your rate of losing fat are linked.
Our bodies are energized on our basal metabolic rate (BMR), and according to the NHS, when we muscle requires more energy to maintain than fat cells. This means that building muscle will cause your BMR to increase, and when your metabolism is faster, your body burns that energy (i.e. calories) at a faster rate, according to Harvard Health.
So instead of worrying so much about the number of calories you’ve burned or the weight you lost after a workout (which is likely very small, may I add), make building muscle your main goal instead. Plus, given that the average adult’s muscle mass starts to deteriorate after the age of 30 (and at a startling rate of 8% muscle mass loss every 10 years), building muscle and staying agile as you get older is crucial.
Building muscle helps you live longer.
One University of Michigan study was actually able to prove this theory. The research actually shows how people with a lower muscle mass are 50% more likely to die prematurely given that muscle is crucial for your body’s overall mobility and agility.
This part isn’t rocket science—if our mobility is good as we all get older, that means we are less likely to experience accidents. Having a good muscle mass can help with keeping you strong and capable to move around in your old age.
So how often should you work out?
Feels like a trick question, but do not worry—how often you work out is really up to you.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, published in 2018, states that the average adult should get at least 150 minutes of moderate movement, or 75-minutes of vigorous movement each week. If you were to focus on moderate-intensity, that would be around 30 minutes a day for five days a week. The guidelines recommend that two or three of those days be focused on strength training.
But what if you don’t want to work out five days a week? What if you want to just get your strength training over with? That’s where you ultimately get to decide. Studies do show that strength training at any frequency will help to develop lean muscle mass.
One study published by the International Journal of Exercise Science showed how two different groups saw the same results in building lean muscle mass and strength despite their different workout routines. One group focused on working out three times a week while working on only three sets per session, while another group worked out once a week and completed all nine sets in that one session. This shows that the quality of the workout is important versus how often you decide to pick up your dumbells.
So whether you prefer a quick workout each morning, or would rather a longer workout session once or twice a week, the choice is up to you. Choosing to hit either 150 minutes of moderate movement or 75 minutes of vigorous movent is a great place to start when choosing how (and when) you want to workout.
Types of workouts to build muscle
According to Harvard Health, some of the best workouts that challenge your muscle resistance and build mass include:
- Free weights workouts with dumbbells or barbells
- Ankle weight workouts
- Resistance (elastic) band workouts
- Bodyweight workouts where you use your body works against gravity as resistance.
These are personally my favorite ways to build muscle, and I like to follow the strength training workouts through Tone It Up and Beachbody. I prefer a quick 30-minute workout first thing in the morning because it starts my day on a good note, and it makes me feel strong and confident in my body the rest of the day.