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Step 6: Why use weights?
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Weight training doesn't just make your muscles stronger; it also works on your tendons, ligaments, and bones. It has a variety of benefits, including:

  • Making your joints stronger -- allowing the joints to withstand more weight or stress when, for example, you exercise more vigorously
  • Helping prevent osteoporosis by increasing bone mass
  • Promoting weight loss by adding muscle mass and losing fat

Weight training makes your muscles stronger through a series of breakdown and rebuilding cycles. When you force your muscles to lift more weight than usual, your muscle fibers literally tear. During the 1 - 3 days afterwards, your body repairs these microscopic tears, in part by adding more muscle tissue to the fibers. This process increases muscle mass and strength; it also strengthens tendons, ligaments, and bone.

Many people (especially women) fear that lifting weights will make them "bulky" or look like a body-builder. In general, using lighter weights and doing more repetitions ensures strength and toning without building bulk.

Because it takes a few days for your muscles to "recover" from weight training, wait at least 2 days before you attempt to use weights to train the same muscles. Fitness professionals often recommend training the upper body (arms, shoulders, and chest) and lower body (back, legs, abdomen) on alternate days.

Exercise both your upper and lower body with weights to get the maximum benefit

Who should lift weights?

Just about everyone can benefit from moderate weight training, especially people who are at risk for osteoporosis. Women who do not regularly do weight-bearing exercise against the resistance of gravity may benefit in particular. (Non-exercisers, swimmers, and cyclists: This means you!)

Since your individual circumstances dictate what you need from a weight-training program, consult a fitness professional, along with your primary care provider, to help you develop a specific set of exercises.

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Review Date: 6/28/2011
Reviewed By: Jeffrey Heit, MD, Internist with special emphasis on preventive health, fitness and nutrition, Philadelphia VA Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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