When starting an exercise program, many people begin with endurance exercises such as walking, running, cycling, or swimming. This is understandable because these activities are typically familiar to us, and the benefits are widely known. Though when it comes to resistance training, few people know how to properly execute common exercises (squat, push-up, chin-up, etc.), or why they should be strength training, other than the obvious benefit which its name implies, to get stronger.
Allow me to shed a little light on why strength training should be an integral part of your workout routine.
Enhance Fat Loss: Resistance training (which can come from free weights, body weight, cables, bands/tubing, or medicine balls) aids fat loss by boosting your metabolism in several ways. The first is by burning calories while you’re working out, and unlike steady state cardiovascular exercise, strength training actually leaves your metabolism elevated for hours after. The second is by raising your Resting Metabolic Rate (the minimum amount of calories your body burns just to function) through an increase in muscle mass. Even when at rest, one pound of muscle burns more calories per hour than one pound of fat. It all adds up to help you achieve or maintain a healthy weight. In fact, when strength training is performed in combination with a calorie deficit, it will help to ensure that the weight you lose is fat instead of calorie sizzling muscle.
Stop muscle atrophy: As we age, eventually our muscle mass starts to decrease, something called sarcopenia, leaving us weaker, frailer, and our metabolisms much slower. However, this doesn’t have to happen! Regular strength training can stop age-related muscle atrophy and actually promote muscle hypertrophy.
Increase bone density: Bone mass typically decreases with age which is why you see so many elderly folks fracturing their bones. A regular strength training program can not only stop you from losing bone mass, but it can actually increase bone density. During strength training, your muscles tug on your bones under a heavy load (using body weight or external resistance like dumbbells) and your bones respond by becoming stronger and increasing in mass much like your muscles do. Remember though; if you stop resistance training you lose the benefits and bone mass can decrease again so think about it as a long-term plan for bone health.
Decrease risk of injury: Whether you’re an athlete or not, injuries regrettably happen. Fortunately, a well planned strength training program will decrease your risk of injury through a few different means. Many injuries occur due to lack of stability at certain joints. Strength training will strengthen the muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments, helping to support and create healthy joints. Using bodyweight or free weight exercises also helps improve balance and coordination. Two basic essentials for icy, snowy New England winters!
Ease of daily activities: A good strength training program should mimic activities of daily living (sorry, I don’t mean sitting at a computer or in front of the TV). For the most part, our everyday movements tend to be some form or combination of squatting, bending, pushing, pulling, and twisting. When your resistance training program includes these types of movements, it will help support both your health and lifestyle. You’ll begin to notice that grocery bags and laundry baskets feel lighter, yard work isn’t as strenuous, the stairs don’t seem so hard, and you can actually keep up with your active kids!
Feel great: Strength training releases feel-good hormones that will lift your mood and leave you feeling energized and empowered. A healthy, natural way to feel better and improve your disposition!