By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Once people head back to the gym in the new year, statistics show they are more likely to take up cardio than weightlifting.

But a new study finds pumping iron can lower the risk of both heart disease and diabetes in women.

So, why is lifting weights so good for us?

Most exercise experts would recommend a combination of resistance training and cardiovascular exercise. But Paul Mellick, an exercise physiologist at the University of St. Thomas, says if he was forced to choose between the two — he would go with lifting weights.

“I think there are ways to get everything you need from resistance training, with the one exception being maybe the effect on your cardiovascular system,” Mellick said.

He says there are several benefits to lifting weights. One of the biggest is that it mimics everyday life. So, while it may not be hard for a 30 year old to get in and out of a chair or car, it is harder for an 80 year old.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

“A lot of that revolves around do you have the muscular strength to help yourself stand up,” Mellick said.

Resistance training is also good for a person’s bones. For example, when person does squats properly, they are putting stress on a bone which stimulates production of new bone. That, and the extra muscle, make the bones stronger.

Building muscle mass increases resting metabolism, which means someone with more muscle mass will burn more calories.

“The old-school approach to it was always that when you’re running you burn a lot of calories while running. When you stop, you’re done,” Mellick said. “Weightlifting, you burn fewer [calories] while you’re actually doing it, but more in those next 24 to 48 hours. It’s a little more complex than that, but that’s sort of the old-school thought.”

As for people with diabetes, resistance training has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. It brings more glucose from the blood to the muscles.

Mellick says most people do not lift weights properly. He recommends a good personal trainer to get started. And, if someone is worried about adding too much bulk, don’t be.

“If it was as easy to get as bulky as you think it is, then every guy would look like Arnold Schwarzenegger,” he said.

Heather Brown