Strength Training Is One of the Best Things You Can Do for Your Health

strength training for health

Becoming a bodybuilder may not be high on your list of priorities. But that doesn't mean strength training shouldn't be. Strength training is about building the healthiest body you can. The fact that it helps you look more toned is just an added perk!

Strength training uses resistance methods, such as lifting weights, to build muscle. It is important to adult men and women of every age. In fact, it's just as important as aerobic exercise. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that healthy adults do strength-training exercises at least twice a week.1

Strength training combats the muscle loss that starts in your 30s

Lean muscle mass naturally decreases with age. You begin to lose it in your 30s. Chhanda Dutta is a scientist with the National Institute on Aging. As she explains, "By the time you're about 50, you have approximately a 10 percent loss of muscle mass. After that, it speeds up about two percent per year. By 80, you could have 40 percent loss of muscle mass."2 Losing muscle affects both your quality of life and your health. But strength training can help you preserve and build it, no matter how old you are.

Muscles help you control your weight

Muscle is a very active tissue. It takes calories to make and maintain it. Stored fat, on the other hand, uses very little energy. So people with more muscle mass have a higher metabolic rate. That means they burn calories faster. Strength training can provide up to a 15 percent increase in your metabolic rate. That's a huge help in weight loss and long-term weight control.3

There's another plus. Not only do you burn calories during strength training, but your body continues to burn calories afterwards. Here's what a study in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found. Women who completed an hour-long strength-training workout burned an average of 100 more calories in the following 24 hours than they did when they hadn't lifted weights.4

Building muscles helps protect against diabetes

Strength training can give you better control of your blood sugar, which protects against diabetes. Michael J. Joyner, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic explained it this way. "The more muscle mass you have, the easier it is for glucose [blood sugar] to go into your skeletal muscle. And the more active that skeletal muscle is, the more glucose it's going to burn."5

Strength training helps prevent other diseases, and even injuries

If you have arthritis, strength training can work as well as medicine to ease pain. It can also help women increase bone density and reduce the risk of bone fractures after menopause. In addition, as you build muscle, your balance and coordination improve. Strength training can reduce falls by as much as 40 percent. That's a major benefit, especially as you get older.6

It boosts energy and improves your mood

Endorphins are feel-good chemicals that help reduce stress. Strength training helps raise the level of these chemicals produced by your brain. Strength training has been shown to be a great antidepressant. It can also help you sleep better and improve your overall quality of life.6

Strength training tips

There are many ways to work strength training into your routine. And you don't have to join a fancy gym to do it. Here are several techniques you can use:

  • Body weight – You can do many exercises with little or no equipment. Try pushups, pull-ups, abdominal crunches, and leg squats. They use your body's own weight to build muscle strength.
  • Resistance tubing – You can find resistance tubes in just about any sporting goods store. They're lightweight and inexpensive, and provide strong resistance when stretched.
  • Free weights – Barbells and dumbbells are the classic strength-training tools.
  • Weight machines – Most fitness centers have resistance machines. Or, you can invest in a weight machine for home use.7

Regular strength training helps reduce body fat, increase lean muscle, and burn calories more efficiently. It can also strengthen bones and help prevent diabetes. And for most people, one set of strength exercise for major muscle groups done two to three times a week is enough. In fact, muscles need a day off between workouts to rest and recover. So talk with your doctor. And if your doctor approves, make strength training a healthy part of your life.