Updated: Mar 3, 2019
If you've ever considered lifting weights but thought that it was only for body builders, or that you'd have to join a gym or buy fancy equipment, think again!
Weight lifting has many benefits beyond building muscle and all you need is a small space and a couple of hand weights to do it.
If you're under the age of 50 it's important to have a good muscle mass because we start to lose up to 1% muscle mass per year after that. That's up to 30% loss by the time you're 80!
And you can lose your muscle strength even faster than 1% per year.
So, the more muscle mass you have before age 50, the better off you'll be.
If you're over the age of 50, the more you lift weights, the slower your rate of loss will be. Why settle for 1% loss, when you can keep your strength even longer?
So you can have more muscle AND slow down the rate of muscle loss by lifting weights at all ages.
Lifting weights is not just about muscle “mass” and “strength” though. It's a great way to maintain good health for just about everyone at any age, whether you're athletic or not.
What exactly do I mean by “good health”?
Here are five key health factors that are improved with increased muscle mass.
1. BOOST YOUR METABOLISM
Yes! We all want a nice, healthy metabolism, don't we? We want to have energy, and be able to burn the right amount of calories from our foods.
Guess what your muscles can do, even when they're not working...burn calories!
And with healthy, strong muscles (like the kind you get from lifting weights), the more calories they burn. Even while you sleep!
(Who doesn't want this?)
Not only that, but less muscle mass is associated with increased fat stores, as well as increased inflammation.
So, lifting weights can build up your muscles so they become more efficient metabolism-boosters, calorie burners, as well as less fat storage and inflammation.
2. STRENGTH TO DO EVERYDAY THINGS
Lifting your groceries. Mowing your lawn. Carrying things up from the basement.
All of these are everyday things that help us maintain our independence. They're things that we can do on our own without needing extra help when we have healthy muscles to rely on.
Lifting weights can help reduce our risk of becoming dependent on others for everyday tasks, because, hey, 'I can do this myself - #thankyouverymuch.'
3. MANAGING YOUR BLOOD SUGAR
Diabetes. Insulin resistance. You've heard of them, and they don't sound healthy.
When your body has trouble maintaining healthy amounts of sugar in your blood (not too much, and not too little), this can cause both short- and long-term issues.
Short-term issues can include things like fatigue and brain fog. And, of course, long-term issues are the potential for insulin resistance, or even diabetes.
And, you'll never guess what can help your body maintain proper blood sugar control…healthy strong muscles!
They do this because they can store and burn excess blood sugar, therefore helping to keep blood sugar levels in just the right place.
4. MAINTAINING BONE HEALTH
Do you know anyone who has broken a bone? What about someone who broke their hip?
As you may know, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men end up with osteoporosis. Bones that break easily, from a simple slip on soft grass or even carpet.
But did you also know that your bones can stay strong when your muscles stay strong?
When your muscles pull on the bones to move you around, the bones get the message that they're important, and so your friendly bone-building cells actively keep making strong healthy bones.
This doesn't happen so much when muscles aren't pulling on them. When the muscles get weaker from lack of use, the bones follow suit.
Not to mention the fact that weight lifting improves balance and reduces the risk of falling, both of which reduce risk of breaking bones.
5. LONGER LIFE, BETTER QUALITY OF LIFE
If none of the above reasons resonate with you (but they probably do…), then this one will surely get your attention.
Fact: More muscle mass and strength as we age is directly associated with longer life AND better quality of life. Seriously!
What do I mean by “quality of life”? I mean lower rates of heart disease, cancer, mental disorders, etc. I mean being healthy, independent, and keeping your mental sharpness. All of those are huge factors when it comes to quality of life.
And lifting weights can help stave off all of those, so you can truly have a healthy, long life.
You can (and probably should) lift weights to maintain good health. And when I say “good health”, I mean things like maintaining your metabolism, strength to do everyday things, and keeping your blood sugar and bones healthy. Not to mention living longer...and better.
Ciolac, E.G. & Rodrigues-da-Silva, J.M. (2016). Resistance Training as a Tool for Preventing and Treating Musculoskeletal Disorders. Sports Med, 46(9):1239-48.
McLeod, M., Breen, L., Hamilton, D.L. & Philp, A. (2016). Live strong and prosper: the importance of skeletal muscle strength for healthy ageing. Biogerontology. 2016; 17: 497–510.
Perkin, O., McGuigan, P., Thompson, D., & Stokes, K. (2016). A reduced activity model: a relevant tool for the study of ageing muscle. Biogerontology. 2016; 17: 435–447.
Rudrappa, S.S., Wilkinson, D.J., Greenhaff, P.L., Smith, K., Idris, I. and Atherton, P.J. (2016). Human Skeletal Muscle Disuse Atrophy: Effects on Muscle Protein Synthesis, Breakdown, and Insulin Resistance—A Qualitative Review. Front Physiol. 2016; 7: 361.
Wullems, J.A., Verschueren, S.M.P., Degens, H., Morse, C.I & Onambélé, G.L. (2016). A review of the assessment and prevalence of sedentarism in older adults, its physiology/health impact and non-exercise mobility counter-measures. Biogerontology. 2016; 17: 547–565.
Xu, J., Lombardi, G., Jiao, W. & Banfi, G. Effects of Exercise on Bone Status in Female Subjects, from Young Girls to Postmenopausal Women: An Overview of Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses. Sports Med. 2016 Aug;46(8):1165-82.