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 for 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 afterward. 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