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4 health benefits of strength training that may surprise you

Posted September 09, 2021 by Charles A. Zonfa, MD, FACOG | Chief Medical Office

As the saying goes, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. Strength training is a safe and effective way to keep muscles and bones strong.

As we age, hormonal changes lead to a decline in muscle mass. We also tend to lose more bone mass than our bodies form — and the rate at which we lose bone mass speeds up once we hit middle age.

But, you don’t have to be a weightlifter or pro athlete to see real results.

In addition to aerobic activity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend adults include strength training at least twice weekly to build and maintain muscle mass. Aim for 20- to 30-minute strength training sessions and exercises should target all your major muscle groups: legs, back, abs, chest, shoulders and arms.

Lifting weights, using resistance bands or doing bodyweight exercises, such as lunges, pushups and squats, are all great ways to build muscle. Simply getting up and moving on a regular basis to walk, run or swim, for instance, will also build muscle.

In just a few short months, you should see real results, but the benefits go well beyond simply toning and defining your muscles. SummaCare offers 4 strong reasons why building and maintaining muscle mass is an important component of overall health and fitness.

  1. Develop strong bones and joints. Strength training can increase bone density and reduce your risk for osteoporosis. To support stronger muscles, your bones must adapt by building more cells and as a result become stronger.

    In addition, lifting weights helps to lubricate and protect the joints, giving them more flexibility. Plus, when you have strong muscles, pressure gets shifted from your joints to your muscles.

  2. Manage your weight. A decrease in muscle mass comes with a decline in your metabolic rate, or metabolism. The more muscle mass you have, the better metabolism you’ll enjoy to burn more calories and help you lose weight.
  3. Ease symptoms from chronic conditions. Strength training can reduce pain and symptoms of many chronic conditions, including arthritis, back pain, obesity, heart disease, depression and anxiety. For example, lifting weights can ease swelling and pressure on the joints, which has been shown to reduce arthritis discomfort. It also can decrease blood pressure and LDL, or bad cholesterol, while raising HDL, or good cholesterol, to reduce cardiovascular risks. You can feel good doing it, too, because strength training releases endorphins that improve your mood and reduce anxiety.
  4. Increase flexibility and balance. Strengthening exercises expand your range of motion by increasing blood flow to tight areas and help strengthen muscles surrounding your joints for better flexibility and balance. Not only do stronger muscles reduce your risk for falls and other injuries, but they also improve your ability to perform everyday tasks.

Getting started

Before starting a strength training routine, it’s always a good idea to consult your doctor. Once you get the green light, you may want to begin with a fitness professional to ensure proper form to reduce the risk of injury.

To start, choose a weight or resistance level that is heavy enough to work your muscles to fatigue after 12 to 15 repetitions. You know you’re doing enough to gain health benefits when your muscles are so tired you can barely do one more repetition without help.

Start slowly and gradually increase your resistance or weight as the exercises become easier. Just be sure to rest a full day between strength training exercises in order to give your muscles time to recover and rebuild muscle tissue.

You’re never too old to start building strength, and it doesn’t mean you have to spend hours at the gym to make it happen. So, pick up those weights and start enjoying the abundant health benefits you’ll get from incorporating strength training into your weekly exercise routine. 



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