Do you Lift Weights?
Most people think of weight lifting as a way to build muscle, but the benefits go beyond increasing lean body mass. An ever-growing body of evidence has shown weight lifting to be helpful for a number of health conditions, both as treatment and for prevention.
For the sake of simplicity, the benefits of weight training can be categorized as:
- Remediation and alleviation of injury or chronic health conditions
The first category is about preventing disease, staying physically and mentally fit, increasing longevity, building good body image, doing sports, socializing and having fun. The second category is more about treating diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome and other chronic disease states for which weight training has shown benefit.
- I. Weight Training for Wellness and Self-Esteem
It’s no surprise that for some people, getting lean or developing muscles increases self-esteem. It becomes a way of life and self-fulfillment.
Weight training can be an outlet for stress…a social a way to clear your mind or a good way to transition in or out of your hectic day.
Exercising 30-60 minutes each day helps to keep weight in check, especially if combined with a healthy diet. It is an essential component of enhancing muscle strength, tone and bulk and contributing to an efficient metabolism.
Strength and Balance
As you gain strength, joints and muscles work together more efficiently, which can reduce injuries and improve balance, flexibility and stamina.
Bone Strength and Density
Losing weight by calorie restriction can produce a decline in bone mass and density.
Weight training is the ideal companion for any weight loss program because it helps maintain bone density while you’re dropping weight.
Muscle building and impact exercise strengthens bone by muscle and tendons impacting on the bone at the attachment points and producing growth stimulation.
Other benefits of exercise
Exercise boosts wellness, immunity and sleep.
- II. Weight Training for Chronic Health Conditions
If you have a chronic disease, weight training can probably help. There is a lot of research on weight training and disease.
Weight training has been shown to be safe and effective in building strength and mobility as part of the recovery of cardiac rehabilitation patients. Cardiovascular disease includes heart attacks, stroke, artery disease and heart failure.
Metabolic syndrome includes excess weight, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar and high cholesterol. Both aerobic training and resistance training provide benefits.
High-intensity weight training is ill-advised for those with uncontrolled hypertension.
Studies have shown that high-intensity resistance training in type 2 diabetics improves glucose control and increases lean body mass, while reducing systolic blood pressure, fat mass and hemoglobin A1c. This can lead to patients being able to reduce their medication.
Weight training programs are increasingly being recommended in diabetes management.
Strength training has been employed with success with cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, for breast cancer patients post-surgery, and has been shown to prevent and even reverse the adverse effects of testosterone suppression chemotherapy in men with prostate cancer. The overall benefits include lean mass maintenance as well as strength and fitness enhancement.
High-intensity weight training was found to be more effective than low-intensity weight training or medical care for the treatment of older depressed patients.
Additional studies on resistance training for depression have produced positive results, possibly as a result of sleep and mood enhancement.
The effects of exercise on bone quality are variable and depend on age, hormonal status, nutrition and exercise type.
Both aerobic and resistance training exercise can provide weight-bearing stimulus to bone, yet research indicates that resistance training may have a more profound, site specific effect than aerobic exercise.
Lung Function and Rehabilitation
Rehabilitation or management of lung function such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) usually involves aerobic exercise such as walking. In recent years, however, strength training has also been used with success.
The strength and stability improvements from resistance training serve to increase exercise capacity and tolerance, resulting in better lung function.
Eccentric resistance training produced improved mobility in Parkinson’s disease patients. Eccentric training focuses on lengthening movements of muscles around joints.
Weight training has been shown to be safe and beneficial for enhancing fitness and lean body mass in people with HIV/AIDS. Increasing lean body mass has been correlated with longevity.
Arthritis and Fibromyalgia
Both osteoarthritis and autoimmune rheumatoid arthritis responded to strength training. The old belief that joint inflammation, pain and inflexibility as a result of arthritis are best treated with rest and little movement has been shown to be erroneous. Exercise has proven to be effective in maintaining and possibly restoring function.
Fibromyalgia patients have responded positively to resistance training.
Two final thoughts…
If you’re a woman, will weight lifting cause you to get bulky?
When you lift weights, your body adapts to the stress placed on your muscles, joints and nervous system. These adaptations are triggered by stress, inflammation and hormones. Depending on your goals (whether you’re a man or woman), by manipulating the acute variables of weight training (sets, reps, intensity, weight and frequency), you can control the type of adaptation and transformation your body will go through. So in essence, a woman can get bulky lifting weights if she chooses to manipulate the acute variables that lead to that specific adaptation.
Consulting with an exercise professional prior to lifting weights to discuss your goals is a good course of action. Together you can determine the best program based on your needs.
Whether you are seeking wellness or self-esteem, or are dealing with an injury or chronic health condition, consult a health or fitness professional so that you can best determine how to achieve your goals efficiently and safely.