8 Health Benefits of Strength Training
Working out with weights isn't just about improving your physique. Strength training has many health benefits, from preventing bone loss to helping maintain a healthy weight.
Strength training does not just improve your appearance. There are many health benefits. Working out with weights can help increase strength, build strong bones and help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.
What is strength training?
Strength training is also called weight or resistance training. It is exercise using free weights or machines that add resistance through a range of motion. By increasing the workload on muscles, resistance training builds strength and mass.
- Strength for life. Working with weights can help to both maintain and increase strength. Our muscles shrink with age and lack of use. Many people over 65 cannot lift much more than 10 pounds. Yet, they are just as capable of gaining that strength back - or would never have lost it in the first place - with even a light weightlifting routine.
- Strong bones. Older adults, especially women, lose bone density with age. Women lose 1 percent to 2 percent of their bone mass per year after menopause. A sedentary life makes bone loss worse and can lead to osteoporosis. Combining weightlifting with a proper diet (getting enough calcium) can increase bone density and help prevent fractures.
- Flexibility and balance. Flexibility decreases with age, especially in those with arthritis. Weight training can help lessen joint pain as well as preserve and improve range of motion. Further, balance improves in older people on a resistance training program. That reduces their risk of falling.
- Weightlifting as aerobic exercise. Weight training with lighter weights and more repetitions (such as 12 to 15) gives a good heart workout. The cardiovascular benefits of strength training can help many older people. Using lighter weights may not build lots of muscle, but it will be intense enough to strengthen the heart, especially if rest between sets is limited (e.g., one minute or less).
- Weight management. Muscle is more metabolically active (burns more calories) than fat. Weight training, combined with cardiovascular workouts (running or swimming), puts on enough muscle mass to rev up the metabolism. This helps you to reach a healthy weight if you are dieting and are overweight or obese. The extra muscle also helps you to keep a healthy weight.
- Better blood sugar control. Studies show that weight training helps people with diabetes keep blood sugar in the normal range.
- Play better and safer. Weight training builds muscle in key areas that are vulnerable to injury, such as the lower back. Weight training also protects you when playing sports. The knee, for instance, is less prone to injury from running when the runner does leg exercises on off days.
- A healthy state of mind. Weightlifting or strength training helps people feel good and may even improve some symptoms of depression. The added strength and improved physique often boosts self-esteem and bolsters confidence.
Be sure to see your doctor before you start any weight training program, especially if you have heart disease, high blood pressure or any other chronic health conditions. And before you pick up those weights, get a checkup if you haven't worked out in a long time.