HCA Midwest Health
January 19, 2017

The Benefits of Weight Training

Adding strength training to your fitness program not only builds muscle, it may help prevent disease, improve your mood and aid in losing weight. “Weight training is a great choice to improve your health and physical condition,” says Gabe Clements, C-ATC, Centerpoint Medical Center.

Add some free weights or weight-based exercise machines to your routine so you can reap all the benefits, such as: 

  1. Increasing your overall strength. Weight training improves your ability to perform taxing physical tasks as well as normal, everyday activities — like bringing in the groceries and playing with the dog.  It also increases the strength of connective tissue, muscles and tendons, decreasing your risk for injury.
  2. Managing your weight. Simply having more muscle on your frame helps your body burn up extra calories — even when you’re just sitting still.
  3. Building up bone density.  One of the best ways to control bone loss (which is inevitable as you age) is to add weight-bearing exercise to your workout. Increased bone density reduces the risk of fractures, especially in older adults. And by protecting your body against osteoporosis, you may also improve your balance, resulting in fewer falls.
  4. Helping your heart. “Cardio” exercise isn’t the only physical activity with cardiovascular benefits. A resistance training routine has been shown to lower blood pressure, in some cases as effectively as taking medication. The American Heart Association recommends adults aim for at least two strength training sessions per week.
  5. Sleeping better and feeling happier.

People who regularly exercise sleep better, and those who work out using weights are no exception. And like many forms of physical activity, a little lifting can work wonders for your mental health. Strength training has been linked to reduced anxiety and depression symptoms as well as improved self-esteem. It may even give your brainpower a boost.

If you are interested in weight training, Clements stresses the importance of doing it properly. “Take your time and prepare. Safe lifting is important to prevent the onset of new injuries, avoid the worsening of existing injuries that you may have, and to keep you from having to stop your weight training. Safe lifting will allow you to continue to reap the benefits of your program for many, many years.

“You’ll notice the benefits to weight training as you continue your program (even if you do not see them the first day or week). It is exciting to watch your body change and be able to do exercises or weights that you were not able to do when you first started.”

Getting Started

First discuss any kind of exercise routine with your primary care provider and consider making an appointment with a personal trainer or fitness expert.  No matter what your fitness level, Clements stresses the importance of pursuing a lifting program under the supervision of a professional. “Trust in the experts. There are a lot of weight training options available and a professional can help you learn about those that are best for you.”

These professionals will show you proper weightlifting form to prevent injuries and help you gain the maximum benefit from your efforts. After reviewing your medical history, they can determine if certain exercises should be avoided. They’ll explain the basics and set up a fitness routine that fits your physical abilities, schedule and goals. 

Who can do weight training?

Clements says that there is no specific age that’s too old for weight training as long as the participant has cleared the program with their doctor first. “For older participants, weight lifting can help improve bone density and muscle mass, just to name a few benefits.” He recommends that weight training isn’t begun until the onset of puberty (traditionally 13-14 years old). “The key is to focus on technique at the beginning and not on the amount of weight lifted. Light weights and body weight exercises are the best to begin with. Overall physical health, coordination and flexibility are great focus points with the younger lifters.” Clements says that you can share training efforts with friends and family. “Involve others in your weight training routines. Having a training partner will help keep you accountable and engaged in your workouts.”

What type of lifting is best?

“With so many options available, you may want to explore the various program options to see what interests and motivates you,” Clements says. “Whether you work out at home or a gym, success is more easily achieved when you are able to be consistent with a lifting program.” When you lift at home, options include free weights, band exercises, workout videos, plyometrics and home equipment. At a gym, there will be professional-grade equipment, classes and access to personal trainers. You could save money through home workouts, but gyms often offer specials and waive membership fees, and some insurance plans provide medical reimbursement that can offset the cost of using a gym or personal coach. Whichever you choose, make sure it’s a regime that you’ll be able and willing to do on a regular basis.