Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Benefits of Strength Training

A growing body of research shows that working out with weights has health benefits beyond bulking up muscles and strengthening bones. Studies are finding that more lean muscle mass gives an older person better cognitive function, reduces depression, boosts good cholesterol, and helps lower the risk of diabetes.

When we hit middle age, muscle mass gradually diminishes by up to about 1% a year in a process called sarcopenia. Since muscle is our largest metabolically active organ, strengthening the muscles has a ripple effect throughout the body

Some studies have shown that moderate to intense strength training not only builds skeletal muscle but increases bone density as well.

Strength training helps your heart in ways that cardio exercise can’t. During cardio, the heart loads up with blood and pumps it out to the rest of the body. As a result the heart gets more efficient at pumping. During resistance training, muscles generate more force. The heart's forceful contraction pushes the blood out and the muscles grow. The result is a stronger heart, not just one that's more efficient at pumping.

Another big advantage of working out with weights is improving glucose metabolism, which can reduce the risk of diabetes. Strength training boosts the number of proteins that take glucose out of the blood and transport it into the skeletal muscle, giving the muscles more energy and lowering overall blood-glucose levels.

The brain may get a boost from the body's extra muscle as well. A 2010 study in Archives of Internal Medicine found that women ages 65 to 75 who did resistance training sessions once or twice a week over the course of a year improved their cognitive performance, while those who focused on balance and tone training declined slightly.