Did you resolve to lose weight or become a healthier version of yourself this year? We’re halfway through the year now, so why not up the ante by adding strength training into the mix?
When we think of exercise, we all too often think only of cardio—the kind of physical activity that gets our hearts pumping. While cardiovascular exercise, also called aerobic exercise, is one important piece of the puzzle when it comes to fitness, it’s not the only one!
In fact, strength training arguably plays an even more important role in determining your fitness level and overall health, since it helps you build muscle mass.
Let’s take a deeper dive into why strength training is important and how it benefits your overall health.
Defining Strength Training
First, though, what exactly is strength training?
Strength training, which is also called weight lifting or resistance training, is a type of physical activity that’s specifically designed to improve your muscular fitness. How does that work?
A variety of activities fall into this category, but they all have the same overall function—they build up a muscle or muscle group by forcing your muscles to work against some type of external resistance.
This can include free weights, barbells, weight machines, resistance bands, or even your own body weight. All that’s required is some sort of force working against your muscles. Over time, this resistance helps those muscles adapt and get stronger.
Who Needs Strength Training?
When you think of weight lifting, body builders may come to mind. But everyone of nearly any age can benefit from physical activities that involve resistance.
Strength training should be one component of any exercise routine. Experts recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week, or 75 minutes of strenuous activity. In addition to that activity, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans call for adults to work every muscle group at least two days each week.
Even kids can benefit from strength training! Those same guidelines mentioned above recommend that kids and teens ages 6 to 17 incorporate some type of age-appropriate strength training activity into their recommended 60 minutes of daily exercise at least three days each week.
Why Strength Training Matters
Strength training offers many benefits for your health. First and foremost, your muscles work on a “use it or lose it” basis. So, if you’re not working them regularly, through exercise and daily activities, your muscle mass can diminish.
But there are also other benefits of resistance training:
- It protects your bones. We’re talking up muscle strength in this blog, but strength training also helps keep your bones healthy and strong. This type of activity stresses the bones—in a good way—and increases bone density while reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
- It can help you lose weight. As you build muscle over time, your body will run more efficiently, burning more calories and making losing weight easier.
- It can boost your brain. Anyone of any age can boost their cognitive function by strength training regularly, but it’s especially helpful for older adults. In fact, one study found that older adults who had mild cognitive impairment and strength-trained twice-weekly improved their scores on cognitive function testing during the study.
- It can keep you mentally strong. Your physical health isn’t the only part of your health to benefit! Strength training has been shown to boost mood and improve symptoms related to conditions such as depression and anxiety.
- It can help you manage chronic conditions. Strength training has been shown to help those with diabetes effectively manage the condition, improving glucose control. Resistance training also has a similar effect on arthritis—in some cases, regular strength training has proven as effective as medication in managing arthritis pain. It works by helping the joints remain flexible, alleviating discomfort.
- It can reduce the risk of falling. Older adults often experience issues with balance, but building muscle can help improve balance and reduce the risk of falls.
If you’re starting up an exercise program for the first time, a checkup can help you gauge where your health stands and where you can improve. FIND A PROVIDER HERE.