Despite mounds of proof to the contrary, many women still avoid weight training because they’re convinced that if they pick up anything heavier than an overloaded laptop case for fear of getting “too bulky,” they’ll suddenly sprout muscular arms like Cameron Diaz and Madonna. But here’s a little secret: not only will regular dumbbell sessions not leave you looking like the Hulk, they’ll actually improve your life in more ways than you realize. In fact, there are about a billion things weight lifting helps you do better, from working harder, to living longer, to looking amazing. But we’ve just rounded up 20 to give you an idea.
You already know that strength training is good for tightening up the biceps and building bone density–but it also does so much more. Regular weight lifting can help improve athletic ability in a number of sports or other activities, retain cognitive function in older adult, and even help alleviate symptoms of mild depression and anxiety…among other things. So if you’re really having a tough time convincing yourself to get off the elliptical and move it into the weight room, here are a few things that lifting weights will help you do better, from big to small.
- Make your flight on time: When you’re rushing through the airport, desperately trying to make your connection flight on your way to a much-needed vacation, you’re going to need a little extra calf, shoulder, and back strength to not only shoulder and un-shoulder your carry-ons, but also to walk (briskly) from one gate to the next. More time on the shoulder-press, less time spent pleading to get on a flight that’s ready for departure.
- Wear a strapless dress: Are you going to be a bridesmaid this summer? My condolences. Or maybe you’re the one getting married, in which case, mazel tov! But seriously, in all likelihood, there’s probably at least one occasion in the near future where an item of strapless clothing may find its way into your presence–and you’ll have to wear it. Biceps curls, triceps presses, and pec flies are all great strength-training workouts that sculpt the areas where a that sweatheart-topped bridesmaid gown is going to fall.
- Be the MVP during recreational summertime games: Beach volleyball, croquette, lawn darts, even a game of chicken in the pool–if you’re playing games with your friends this summer, muscles can help you run with the best of them. Just be sure to thank your dumbbells after you spike the ball right into the sand for the winning point.
- Get promoted: Any kind of workout that elevates your heart rate has been shown to increase motivation and focus in the workplace–but strength training specifically can help train the muscle to pump more efficiently, which allows for better blood flow to the brain, which means fewer headaches, better attention to detail, and more energy. Plus, when you help your boss unjam the copier (again), you’ll be sure to win some points with those strong arms.
- Ace your physical: Admit it: you’ve always wanted to totally wow your doctor. Lower your cholesterol by sitting down on the weight bench. Muscles burn more calories than fat, so when you’ve got a lot of muscle, you’ve got less fat…and lower cholesterol, a healthier heart, and an all around doctor-pleasing you.