Weight lifting isn’t just for bodybuilders. It is one of the best ways to fight osteoporosis and maintain bone mass. In fact, it’s a great exercise to maintain a healthy heart, strong muscles and keep your metabolism fired up. Arnold Schwarzenegger move over, seniors are lifting weights too!
A recent study conducted at Iowa State University1 analyzed data from nearly 13,000 adults who lifted light weights and measured three outcomes;
- Cardiovascular events including heart attack and stroke that did not result in death
- All cardiovascular events including death
- Any type of death
The results showed significant benefit from limited weight lifting. Researchers discovered that “Lifting weights for less than an hour a week may reduce your risk for a heart attack or stroke by 40 to 70 percent.” However, there is no need to try to become Mr. or Ms. Universe because the study showed that there was no additional benefit from spending more than an hour lifting weights.
Additional findings of the study are just as stunning. They include:
- Just two sets of bench presses that take less than 5 minutes could be effective
- The benefits of strength training are independent of running, walking or other aerobic activity
- Researchers concluded that you do not have to meet the recommended guidelines for aerobic physical activity to lower your risk of heart disease; weight training alone is enough
Does that mean you have to join a gym? Not necessarily. Researchers said when it comes to the body, a weight is a weight.
“Lifting any weight that increases resistance on your muscles is the key,” said DC (Duck-chul) Lee, associate professor of kinesiology at the university. “My muscle doesn’t know the difference if I’m digging in the yard, carrying heavy shopping bags or lifting a dumbbell.”
The study also showed other health benefits from lifting light weights. Researchers examined the connection between weight-lifting and conditions like high cholesterol and metabolic syndrome (a risk factor for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.) They discovered:
- 29 percent less risk of metabolic syndrome
- 32 percent lower risk of high cholesterol
The Livestrong website2 (a partner of the Livestrong Foundation) lists even more benefits of lifting weights. They include:
- Reduces depression
- Fights osteoporosis and strengthens bones
- Prevents back pain
- Improves balance which can help to reduce falls
- Makes you mentally stronger
- Simply put, you will look and feel stronger
If you want to begin lifting light weights, start carefully and cautiously. Always be aware of protecting your lower back and begin with five pound weights only. Health professionals, including the Mayo Clinic3, recommend the following:
- Check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine
- Wear the right footwear to avoid slips and falls
- Stay hydrated – drink water while exercising
- Warm up with five to 10 minutes of stretching or brisk walking
- Choose a weight only heavy enough to tire your muscles after 12 to 15 repetitions
- If the recommended three sets of 12 exercises are too difficult, reduce the sets, not the repetitions. In other words, lift two sets of 12, rather than three sets of eight
- As you begin to workout realize you may be a little sore the next day
- Rest one full day between exercising each specific muscle group
Here are some examples of light weight lifting exercises from Mayo Clinic:
- Chest Press
- Bent-over row with dumbbell
- Triceps extension
- Biceps curl with dumbbell
- Knee extension
- Leg press
- Hamstring curl
- Calf raise
Remember that while weight lifting is very beneficial, it’s important to begin slowly and carefully. Don’t try to lift too much weight at a time. The goal is not to build bulging muscles. It is to give your bones, muscles, and heart a workout that will keep them healthy for years to come.
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