Harvard Men's Health Watch

Strength training, Part II: From theory to practice

Your body has more than 600 muscles and 200 bones; they give you over 800 reasons for considering strength training. And there's more. Strength training will improve your metabolism.

Muscles burn calories faster than fat, so as you gain muscle and lose fat, your metabolic rate will increase. Your muscle cells will become more responsive to insulin, so your blood sugar and insulin levels will decline, reducing your risk of diabetes. Your cholesterol profile may improve, and — contrary to earlier beliefs — your heart function and blood pressure also stand to gain (see Part I). In fact, a Harvard study of 44,452 men found that men who trained with weights for 30 or more minutes per week averaged a 23% lower risk of heart disease than men who did not use weights. And since strong muscles take pressure off joints, people with arthritis can often enjoy pain relief, particularly when they have knee arthritis and strengthen their quadriceps muscles.

Strength training will help you look better and feel better. Your endurance and functional capacity will improve substantially. Even if you never hoist a barbell in competition, you'll feel the difference when you take out the trash, carry in the groceries, wrestle with a suitcase, or climb a flight of stairs. Best of all, perhaps, are the studies showing that moderate-intensity resistance training is as good as, or better than, high-intensity weight training for your health, though not for the way you look in a bathing suit.

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