Why it is Important to Exercise with Weights

Exercise with Weights

Exercise with Weights

Regular strength training is an important part of regular physical activity.

According to an article from Iowa State University, “lifting weights for less than an hour a week may reduce your risk for heart attack or stroke by 40-70 percent. Spending more than an hour in the weight room did not yield any additional benefit, the researchers found. The results show benefits of strength training are independent of running, walking or other aerobic activity.”[1]

A lot of people have been focusing on movement, which is great. Walking, running, swimming all has tremendous health benefits, in large part, because they oppose being sedentary. In addition to movement, we also have to dedicate 150 minutes per week of true aerobic exercise. This means that, in addition to being active, we commit to exercise.

I hear this all that time, “I don’t exercise doc, but I am really active.” This is great, but it doesn’t obviate the need for dedicated aerobic exercise. We really need to build this into our schedules. The optimal is probably 5 days per week at 30 minutes per day. If 30 minutes isn’t doable, then shoot for 25 minutes, but that means you will need to do 6 days per week. Everyone needs, at least, 1 day off per week of aerobic exercise to let things cool down. If you don’t rest the body, you may end up with an injury. So, if you plan for 25-30 minutes daily, then you should also plan for 10-15 minutes of weight training daily to reach your goal of 60 minutes per week.

By doing this, you will guarantee a manageable amount of strength training each day. Some people would prefer to batch strength training, but I think doing it every day as part of your routine is the way to go.

Most people break up the words for strength training, using the following terms:

Reps-The number of repetitions or repeated actions you do something.

Sets- The number of sets that you reps of something.

Upper/Lower– This refers to lifting upper body or lower body.

Interestingly, there are several studies which show that more than one set of any particular strength training has limited value. I like to do 3 sets of each exercise at around 10-15 reps for each set. This is the optimal. But, if you would prefer to do only 1 set out of the interest for time or concern for injury, this is totally reasonable.

It’s important to distinguish the upper and lower body, during your workout. The reason is that you don’t want to work out the upper body every day or the lower body every day. It’s best to alternate. So, if you do curls for your biceps and triceps with weights on one day, you should shoot for lower body weights on the next day. Not only does it reduce the risk of injury, but the muscles actually developer more strength with rest.

The Iowa State researchers “analyzed the data of nearly 13,000 adults in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study. They measured three health outcomes: cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke that did not result in death, all cardiovascular events including death and any type of death.” The study author says, “resistance exercise reduced the risk for all three.”[1]

The health benefits of strength exercise are innumerable. The muscles of the body help with bone strength and growth. They also help with maintaining balance. As an ER physician, I have taken care of 100s of falls. These typically increase as we get older. It’s important to ensure safety by working on strength all the way through life to reduce deconditioning as we age.

Most people think it’s just about appearance. If you are one of those folks, it’s time to reconsider. Strength training may just safe your life. If it doesn’t it may save you from the aches and pains of falls, osteoporosis and other strength related disease.

If you need some more advice on where to start, reach out to a personal trainer at a local gym. There are numerous DVDs, books, and videos available for getting you started. It doesn’t and actually shouldn’t be complicated. It’s easy. If it’s not, then find someone or something else to guide you.


[1] anghui Liu, Duck-chul Lee, Yehua Li, Weicheng Zhu, Riquan Zhang, Xuemei Sui, Carl J. Lavie, Steven N. Blair. Associations of Resistance Exercise with Cardiovascular Disease Morbidity and MortalityMedicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2018; 1 DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001822

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