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58% of Americans Are Making This Major Exercise Mistake, New Data Says

If getting healthier or slimming down is your goal, don't skip this essential.
FACT CHECKED BY Faye Brennan

According to the American Heart Association, adults should find the time for strength training and resistance exercises at least twice per week. This recommendation is echoed by the World Health Organization as well.

Unbelievably, however, research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reports an astounding 58% of Americans don't engage in any strength-building exercises whatsoever. Moreover, only 30% of Americans habitually get in at least two weekly resistance exercise sessions. This was no small research project, either: Over 397,000 Americans were surveyed.

Understandably, a number of factors, such as older age, poor aerobic health, and obesity, were associated with lower odds of meeting strength training recommendations. In response, researchers accounted for such lifestyle elements while compiling their final results. Ultimately, those who routinely engaged in resistance exercise were still deemed less likely to develop a litany of conditions including diabetes, cancer, obesity, and overall poor health.

"Three in five U.S. adults do not engage in any muscle-strengthening exercise, despite an association for muscle-strengthening exercise with better health conditions," the research concludes.

If you're a part of that 58% statistic, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. After all, besides building bigger muscles, what can strength training do for you anyway? Read on to learn just a few more reasons why everyone should be finding the time for some resistance workouts. And next, check out the Exercises You Should Never Skip As You Age.

1

Weight loss

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If you're pursuing a leaner look, strength training should absolutely be a part of your routine. You already know that resistance workouts build muscle. How will that help you lose weight? Well, muscle burns up to three times more calories than fat!

That's right, the bigger your muscles, the more calories you'll burn by doing literally anything. In fact, weight lifting even promotes further calorie burning while at rest. Technically referred to as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), strength training will provoke your body to burn further calories while repairing and rebuilding muscle for a full 24-48 hours after your workout is over.

Moreover, plenty of research indicates strength training is a great way to lose belly fat and avoid weight gain. This specific study finds older men who lifted weights for 20 minutes daily had a smaller increase in abdominal fat than men performing cardio for the same period.

Related: This Workout Plan Will Keep You Lean Throughout the Holidays

2

A better memory

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Making sure your muscles are active can also benefit your brain. This study published in Acta Psychologica reports that just 20 minutes of strenuous leg resistance exercises was enough to notably improve episodic (long-term) memory among participants. Incredibly, these observed memory improvements were documented two days after the workouts had ended, suggesting the memory benefits of strength training are long-lasting.

"Our study indicates that people don't have to dedicate large amounts of time to give their brain a boost," says study leader Lisa Weinberg.

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3

Improved sleep

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Another unexpected benefit linked to resistance workouts is improved sleep quality. Who couldn't benefit from a little extra shuteye?

This large research project published in Preventive Medicine Reports finds literally any amount of weight-lifting is linked with better sleep. Over 20,000 people were involved in the study, and whenever a subject engaged in resistance exercises they reported fewer nights spent tossing and turning that week. It's worth mentioning that this effect even held up after a single weight-lifting session. Just one trip to the weight room weekly is all it takes.

Related: Secret Effects of Lifting Weights Just Once Per Week, Science Says

4

Improved self-esteem

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A habitual strength-training routine can help you feel good on the inside as well as the outside. This study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research analyzed over 750 adults and ultimately concluded that resistance workouts are associated with a positive body image and less social anxiety.

Another report released in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that resistance training helped improve self-esteem among a group of adolescents much more than cardio workouts. Subjects reported that simply feeling like they were becoming stronger was enough to produce a boost in confidence.

For a great strength-training workout, check out This 20-Minute Toning & Slimming Workout.

John Anderer
John Anderer is a writer who specializes in science, health, and lifestyle topics. Read more
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