Lifting weights does more than build strong bones. Strength training can also contribute to heart health by building lean muscle mass, which helps to burn extra calories, keep blood sugar in check and improve cholesterol levels.
Strength training, especially for older adults, can also make it easier to perform everyday activities such as lifting a bag of groceries. Resistance exercises are also important for bone health and can help prevent osteoporosis.
Many fitness centers offer low impact strength-training classes. But if you cannot get to a gym and feel uncomfortable working with weights at home, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests trying some of the following activities for strength training:
- Working with resistance bands, weight machines or hand-held weights
- Doing push ups, sit ups and other body weight resistance exercises
- Heavy gardening (digging, lifting and carrying)
- Yoga or Pilates
- Tai Chi
But be careful not to over do it. The American Heart Association recommends performing eight to 10 resistance exercises two days a week. Look for exercises that use all the major muscle groups—legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders and arms. And try to do each exercise to the point of muscle fatigue. Avoid overtraining, however, and stop immediately if you feel any pain.
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