If you’ve ever wondered how you can feel better or look better – or even take better care of your health, here’s one simple solution – hit the weights! It doesn’t have to be complicated nor does it require a full home gym and heavy equipment. In fact, simple exercises performed consistently can provide lasting results. Lifting weights has been shown to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, high blood pressure and diabetes. Here’s how a little lifting can improve your health, your mood and your internal motivation for the better.
It helps keep your weight in check.
When you take charge of your exercise routine – including lifting weights – you’re also helping take charge of your fate. Most adults lose .05 pounds of muscle per year after age 30, largely due to inactivity. It’s also common to gain an average of 1 to 2 pounds of fat with each passing year. These small changes add up – increasing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart attack and some cancers. While aerobic exercise is the most effective way to control your weight, strength training helps preserve the muscles you have and can boost your metabolic rate by as much as 15 percent. The greater your muscle mass, the more calories your body burns – even at rest.
It brings balance to your body.
As you age, the loss of muscle makes activities of daily living more difficult. Keeping your tendons, ligaments and muscles strong will make them less likely to give out when you’re living day to day. Getting up and down off the floor, standing on a step stool to reach a high shelf, riding a bicycle. All these require good balance, which is largely based on your muscle mass. Lifting weights and/or performing body weight exercises helps reduce your risk of falling and lowers your chance of injury if you do fall. What does body weight mean? Body weight exercises require no equipment. Think pushups, sit-ups, lunges, high knees and planks. They’re simple to do and can be done anywhere.
It builds up your bones.
It’s important for people of all ages to be aware of their risk for osteoporosis, particularly younger women who can still build up their bone mass density. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends two types of exercise to build strong bones – weight bearing and resistance. Your bones become stronger when you place physical demands on them. In weight bearing exercise, your bones are working against gravity to support you. Resistance exercises build both muscle and bone mass. You can get the exercise you need through running, jogging, walking, dancing and stair climbing. Lifting free weights or using weight machines provides you with resistance training. Studies have found that post-menopausal women who participated in weight-bearing exercise using resistance machines, walking or jogging reduced their lifetime risk for osteoporosis by up to 11 percent.
It improves your posture – and possibly your mood.
Many people spend a lot of hours sitting on the couch or behind a computer, which can lead to slumped shoulders and a head that protrudes forward. Not only does that indicate the appearance of age, it also creates strain on your back and neck muscles that must work harder to hold your head in its proper position. Over time this can lead to neck strain, stiffness and tension headaches. As your body gets stronger – and leaner – from consistent weightlifting, you’re likely to see an improvement in your posture and overall flexibility as a result of stronger abdominal and shoulder muscles that help hold your body upright. There’s also a mind-body connection that’s impacted by your posture, feelings of strength and ability to do the things you want to do without stiffness or pain. When your body stands tall, your mood is also likely to be lifted.
Exercise Changes Everything
To start building muscle, here’s a good rule of thumb: Aim for strength training two to three times a week, with a rest day in between. In each session do one exercise for each major muscle group and make the weight heavy enough so that you can perform a maximum of 8 to 12 repetitions of the movement.