Weightlifting improves the coordination of muscles working together, which increases an athlete’s power. Many athletes have the impression that if they lift weights they will develop bulkier muscles which would slow them down, however this is untrue. Weightlifting can create non-bulky muscles that have stronger thicker fibers, which with power training has shown to enhance performance in endurance sports. It also increases the strength of connective tissue, muscles, and tendons. This leads to improved motor performance and a decreased risk of injuries.
Weight training helps to tone, lift, firm, and shape your body. Stronger muscles can improve your posture and help keep your body in balance. Weight training can help to reshape problem areas, or areas with "stubborn fat" that is difficult to get rid of. The combination of a low-fat diet and aerobic activity burns total fat from all over your body. Weight training can increase your lean body mass and therefore increase your metabolism. An increased metabolism speeds up your body's natural process of breaking down and storing foods. Not only does strength training increase your physical work capacity, it also improves your ability to perform activities of daily living. You will be able to work harder and longer with the proper weight training activities.
Strength training is crucial to weight control, because individuals who have more muscle mass have a higher metabolic rate. Muscle is active tissue that consumes calories, while stored fat uses very little energy. Strength training can provide up to a 15% increase in metabolic rate, which is enormously helpful for weight loss and long-term weight control. Building muscle tissue increases the muscles’ demand for glucose. More than 14 million Americans have type II diabetes. This is a three-hundred percent increase over the past forty years, and the numbers are steadily climbing (American Diabetes Association). In addition to being at greater risk for heart and renal disease, diabetes is also the leading cause of blindness in older adults.
Fortunately, studies now show that lifestyle changes such as strength training have a profound impact on helping older adults manage their diabetes. In a recent study of Hispanic men and women, 16 weeks of strength training produced dramatic improvements in glucose control that are comparable to taking diabetes medication. Additionally, the study volunteers were stronger, gained muscle, lost body fat, had less depression, and felt much more self-confident (Joslin Diabetes Center Boston, Massachusetts). Weight training causes the muscles pull glucose from the bloodstream so that blood sugar levels don’t rise dangerously. This can also help with the prevention of diabetes for younger people later in life. Studies have shown that people who weight train had better blood sugar control than those who did not weight train.
Weightlifting, as helpful as it is for physical strength, is also extremely beneficial for heart health. It helps to melt away visceral fat as well as fat that builds up around the body’s organs, which has been associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Strength training is important for cardiac health because heart disease risk is lower when the body is leaner. One study found that cardiac patients gained not only strength and flexibility but also aerobic capacity when they did strength training three times a week as part of their rehabilitation program. This and other studies have prompted the American Heart Association to recommend strength training as a way to reduce risk of heart disease and as a therapy for patients in cardiac rehabilitation programs
As we age, our bodies are less able to create new muscle tissue. Sarcopenia is age-related loss of muscle, and with it comes a reduction in the ability to do functional everyday activities. When you lose weight, you inevitably lose muscle mass as well as fat. By doing strength training exercises, you can reduce the amount of lean muscle tissue that you lose during weight loss. When trying to maintain a stable weight, strength training reduces the age-associated loss of muscle tissue. In addition, strength exercise programs can be a significant help in maintaining our metabolic rate, which ordinarily declines with age and with weight loss.
Other issues people face as they age concern balance and flexibility. Most to falls and broken bones in older adults can be linked to poor balance and flexibility. These injuries may not be extremely detrimental to someone of a younger age, but for older people they can end in significant disability and, in sometimes there may even be fatal complications. Strengthening exercises, when done properly and through the full range of motion, increase a person's flexibility and balance, which decrease the likelihood and severity of falls. Arthritis relief is another benefit to weightlifting for people aging. A study done by Tufts University using older men and women with severe knee osteoarthritis showed that weight training decreased pain by 43%, increased muscle strength and general physical performance, improved the clinical signs and symptoms of the disease, and decreased disability. This study concluded that this weight training regimen was just as effective, if not more, as medications used to treat the disease. Similar effects of strength training have been seen in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (Growing Stronger).
Strength training provides similar improvements in depression as anti-depressant medications. Currently, it is not known if this is because people feel better when they are stronger or if strength training produces a helpful biochemical change in the brain. Many scientists believe it is most likely a combination of the two. When older adults participate in strength training programs, their self-confidence and self-esteem improve, which has a strong impact on their overall quality of life. Weight training also improves your quality of life as you gain body confidence. Strength training will not only make you strong, but will also help you to feel strong about yourself. People who exercise regularly also enjoy improved sleep quality. They fall asleep more quickly, sleep more deeply, awaken less often, and sleep longer. As with depression, the sleep benefits obtained as a result of strength training are comparable to treatment with medication but without the side effects or the expense.
Weight lifting has been shown to improve the quality of life for everyone; from athletes preparing for a long season to elderly adults just preparing for the future. Keeping your body in shape at all ages of life is essentially to living long and healthy. Lifting weights can be an easy and effective way to achieve both of those things.