For many, weight training calls to mind bodybuilders pumping iron in pursuit of beefy biceps and bulging pecs. But experts say it’s well past time to discard those antiquated notions of what resistance training can do for your physique and health. Modern exercise science shows that working with weights—whether that weight is a light dumbbell or your own body—may be the best exercise for lifelong physical function and fitness.
Researchers are finding resistance training to be the most important form of training for overall health and wellness. Many people think of weight training as exercise that augments muscle size and strength, which is certainly true. But researchers are saying the “load” that this form of training puts on bones and their supporting muscles, tendons and ligaments is probably a bigger deal when it comes to health and overall physical function.
One important aspect researched is a decrease in bone tissue over time. When you’re young, bone resorption is balanced and in some cases exceeded by new bone tissue generation. But later in life, bone tissue losses accelerate and outpace the creation of new bone. That acceleration is especially pronounced among people who are sedentary and women who have reached or passed menopause. Studies show this loss of bone tissue leads to the weakness and postural problems that plague many older adults.
Research has shown that resistance training counteracts all those bone losses and postural deficits. Through a process known as bone remodeling, strength training stimulates the development of bone osteoblasts which basically means cells that build bones back up. While you can achieve some of these bone benefits through aerobic exercise, especially in your lower body, resistance training is really the best way to maintain and enhance total-body bone strength.
It used to be we thought of strength training as something for athletes but now scientists recognize it as a part of general health and well-being at all ages.