Although the benefits of aerobic exercise are widely documented and known to promote a healthy and happy life, adding some strength training can greatly improve short-term physical performance while protecting long-term health. Strength and balance, an improved cardiovascular system and a boost in well-being are just a few of the perks that can come from lifting weights.
The American Heart Association states that three to six months of moderate- to high-intensity resistance training two to three times per week improves muscular strength and endurance by 25 percent to 100 percent in both men and women, regardless of age. Increased strength and balance and a boost in energy and general well-being are the only noticeable short-term effects from increasing muscular endurance. More significant long-term benefits will be felt later in life.
According to the association, muscular endurance -- along with aerobic exercise -- can help keep your heart functioning properly and ensure that your blood is fully oxidized, protecting you from heart attacks. Increased muscle strength results in thinner blood and therefore lower blood pressure, reducing your risk of a stroke. Both aerobic exercise and muscular endurance can lead to significant improvements in glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, reducing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Pain associated with chronic conditions, such as lower back problems and osteoporosis, can also be relieved.
Developing All The Muscles
The association suggests that the benefits of resistance training can be felt with just a single exercise -- consisting of a set of eight to 10 repetitions -- per major muscle group. These exercises should be performed two to three times per week. Your resistance training should include exercises that engage the muscles in your arms, shoulders, chest, abdomen and legs.
Examples of Exercises
Examples of exercises include the shoulder and chest press, biceps curl, triceps extension, crunches, leg or quadriceps press, leg curls and calf raise. Exercises can be carried out with free weights and/or machines and should be adapted to reflect your ability to perform each exercise without injury. Perform each exercise so that you're struggling to work with the weight toward the end of the set.
Consult your doctor before engaging in any strenuous physical exercise, especially if you have cardiovascular disease. Seek expert advice when using free weights and machines.
- American Heart Association: AHA Science Advisory: Resistance Exercise in Individuals With and Without Cardiovascular Disease
- University of New Mexico: Resistance Training: Adaptions and Health Implications
- American Journal of Preventative Medicine: The Benefits of Strength Training for Older Adults
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory, Musculoskeletal, and Neuromotor Fitness in Apparently Healthy Adults: Guidance for Prescribing Exercise: What Are the Benefits of Improving Muscular Fitness?