Whatever your age, strength training is an activity that provides many health benefits for both men and women. Strength training can be done by people who are in good health, as well as by those who have health concerns — such as arthritis or chronic pain.
Combined with regular aerobic exercise, doing an activity like lifting weights two or more times a week can improve your mental, emotional and physical health.
Health Conditions That Benefit From Strength Training
Strength training is known to reduce the symptoms of several health problems and chronic diseases, such as:
- Arthritis, including osteoarthritis
- Back pain and other types of pain
Benefits of Strength Training
While some of the benefits of strength training are for older men and women, it is never too early to start. The major benefits of strength training include:
- Increased muscle strength. Without use, our muscles waste away as we age. Regular strength training can keep your muscles strong well into the post-retirement years. This can have a profound impact on your ability to function in your daily life.
- Improved balance and reduced falls. Simple strength and balance training can improve your balance. This can reduce the risk of falling, which is a common problem for older people. Bone fractures from falls can lead to permanent disability and may even lead to death.
- Stronger bones. Lifting weights or doing other types of resistance exercises puts stress on the bones. In response, the bones grow stronger (denser). This reduces the risk of bone fractures. Post-menopausal women, in particular, can benefit, because they lose 1 to 2 percent of their bone mass each year.
- Weight control. Building muscle also increases how many calories you burn, because muscle tissue is very active. For this reason, strength training can boost your metabolism, which can help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
- Improved glucose control. Millions of Americans have type-2 diabetes, a condition that involves elevated levels of glucose in the blood. Left untreated, this condition can lead to heart or kidney problems, and even blindness. Strength training reduces the risk of these conditions by improving the glucose levels in the blood.
- Better moods and sleep. Like aerobic exercise, strength training can improve your mood, self-confidence and self-esteem. In addition, regular exercise can help you sleep better. Together, these add up to a better overall quality of life.
- Stronger heart muscle. The muscles of your arms and legs are not the only ones that benefit from strength training. Your heart will also grow stronger with exercise, which shows up as improved aerobic capacity. Even cardiac patients can benefit from doing this type of physical activity three times a week.
Strength Training Recommendations
It is never too early or too late to start a strength training program. Adults should aim for doing this at least two days a week. The exercises should work all the major muscle groups of the body.
Strength training often involves lifting weights. But other types of resistance exercises also work well — such as using exercise bands or doing bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups or crunches.
If you are physically inactive, have an existing health condition or have concerns about your health, check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.