Lifting wights, or strength training, is no longer just the domain of body builders. More and more research is showing that the benefits of strength training are enormous for everybody. Interestingly enough, the elderly and those in poor health may well benefit the most.
Lifting weights 2-3 times per week increases the density of bones and increases muscle mass. Muscle mass is important for increasing the metabolic rate of the body. Healthy bone density is important to counteract osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) and the associated fractures that go with the decrease in calcium in the bones.
Other benefits of strength training are:
* weight maintenance. Not only does the activity of lifting weights burn calories and fat, but the resulting increase in muscle mass can increase the body’s metabolic rate by as much as 15%. Muscle is a tissue that requires calories to function, whereas fatty deposits do not.
* anti-depressant. Current research has shown that strength training can be as effective for treating some depression as anti-depressant medication. Strength training results in an elevated mood from the production of the feel good hormones, or endorphins.
* glucose control. Type 2 diabetes has skyrocketed by over 300% in the last 4 decades in the US. This translates to 114 million adults living in the US with type 2 diabetes. Strength training has proven to be just as effective as medication for treating early stage type 2 diabetes and many people in the early stages can reverse their blood results with strength training and dietary changes alone. (If you have diabetes type 2 you need to consult your practitioner before embarking on a strength training program and altering your medications.)
* better balance is another positive benefit from lifting weights. Strength training improves flexibility and coordination, which contribute enormously to better movement and less falls in the aging process.
* arthritis relief. Many people associate joint disease with having to cease exercise. However, studies have shown that people with painful knees caused by osteoarthritis noted a significant reduction in their pain levels after courses of strength training exercises. Disability, signs, and symptoms, were all additionally dramatically reduced. Many participants felt that that the strength training exercises were more beneficial than their arthritis medications.
* heart health. Strength training promotes a healthy heart by assisting with a healthier body weight. The leaner the body, the less strain on the heart. Indeed, the American Heart Association recommends strength training not only as part of a preventative healthy heart regime, but also as cardiac rehabilitation for those recovering from heart disease.
Types of Strength Training
There are various forms of strength training. All have advantages and disadvantages. Different types serve different purposes and individuals. If you have never done any strength training work it is a great idea to either visit a physiotherapist, hire a personal trainer, or get a temporary membership at a health club to be properly informed. It is easy to use weights inappropriately and suffer injuries.
* Resistance bands are portable, inexpensive, and easy to store for the space challenged. There are many varieties of movements that you can perform with a set of bands. There are many DVDs and books to give you plenty of inspiration. Bands will improve strength and muscle tone, but if you want to be a body builder, you will obviously want something heavier. Over time, bands will need to be replaced when they lose their elasticity.
* Free weights improve coordination as the exercises must be performed correctly. Free weights are not as limiting as machines and offer more versatility with routines. However, weights take up space, can prove costly if you are lifting extremely heavy weights, and require knowledge and skill. Serious injury is easy with free weights. When starting out you will need a trainer. Free weights ideally require a spotter to prevent fatal injuries.
* Machines can be relatively simple to use, and to alter weights. However they do require a lot of space and money, unless of course you go to a gym. Machines do not require as much coordination as free weights. The downside is that usually numerous machines are required to work out all major muscle groups. Machines are generally safer, and it is harder to seriously injure yourself than with free weights.
Strength training is excellent for people of all ages and health. Enlist the help of a professional to start a program to minimize injuries and maximize performance. Strength training has been found to be helpful in fighting heart disease, obesity, depression, and type 2 diabetes.