Boost Your Health with Strength Training

Boost Your Health with Strength Training

New research says strength training may help people live longer. While that likelihood requires more study, there is solid proof that building your muscles can help your body and overall health.

We already know that muscle-strengthening effort is good for our health in more ways than just making us strong. It can help improve some health issues, like high blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and it can help lower our risk for other health problems.

A large-scale study leaving site icon that pooled together and analyzed findings from several previous studies found that muscle-strengthening exercise may also lower our risk for death overall.

The study looked at how exercise affects health, including the effects of different types and amounts of exercise. Overall, the study found that 30 to 60 minutes of muscle-strengthening activity each week cuts the risk of death from diseases like cardiovascular disease and cancer. The reason for this effect is not yet well understood, and more research is needed.

But there is clear evidence that all physical activity boosts health and wellbeing, says the World Health Organization. leaving site icon It helps prevent and manage disease, decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety, and supports thinking and learning.

Benefits of Building Muscles

Doing muscle-building workouts, also called strength training, resistance training or weight training, brings many benefits.

It makes muscles stronger, but it’s not just done to build big muscles. The goal is keeping up or improving your quality of life. Strength training:

  • Helps keep your bones healthy.
  • Boosts your body’s ability to process food.
  • Increases your body’s resistance to diabetes and related diseases.

As part of a broader fitness program, strength training may also help you:

  • Manage your weight. Increased lean muscle mass can help you lose weight by raising your metabolism so you burn more calories.
  • Better control chronic health problems. Strength training can lessen the symptoms of health issues like arthritis, back pain, obesity, heart disease, depression and diabetes.
  • Sharpen your thinking skills. Some research suggests that routine strength training and aerobic exercise may help improve thinking and learning skills for older adults.

Continuing to build strong muscles is especially important as we age. Body fat percentage will grow if you don't do anything to replace the lean muscle you lose over time. And that loss of lean muscle mass can also increase your risk for falls, says the National Institutes of Healthleaving site icon

Strength training can help you keep and add to your muscle mass at any age.

Getting Started

It’s recommended that adults do strength training for all major muscle groups twice a week. leaving site icon What fits the bill?

  • Weightlifting
  • Push-ups, sit-ups and other exercises using your body weight for resistance
  • Some types of yoga
  • Resistance training like Pilates

Starting strength training isn’t as easy as just adding exercise by walking farther each day. It’s vital to learn how to do it the right way. That might mean signing up for a few lessons with a personal trainer or taking a class for guidance. Some options for where to learn how to safely build muscle include gyms or a recreation, senior or community center.

Finding a setting you find comfortable can help you stick with it. Once you know how to safely do strength training exercises, you can even work out at home.

Talk to your doctor before starting any new training, especially if you haven’t lifted weights before. Listen to their advice.

Start slow, but get started.

Sources: Physical Activity for Different Groups, leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021; Relationship Between Muscle-Strengthening Activity and Cause-Specific Mortality in a Large US Cohort, leaving site icon National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 2020; Physical Activity, leaving site icon World Health Organization, 2022; Evidence mounts on the benefits of strength training, leaving site icon Harvard School of Public Health, 2022; Strength training: Get stronger, leaner, healthier, leaving site icon Mayo Clinic, 2021