A part of every good fitness programme should include various exercise types such as aerobic training, flexibility training, balance exercises as well as strength training.
According to the Australian physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines, it is recommended that adults do muscle strengthening activities on at least two days each week*.
Strength training is exercise that uses resistance to strengthen and condition the musculoskeletal system.
As well as being extremely beneficial to our musculoskeletal system, strength training has all over body benefits.
Some of these benefits include:
- Improved posture.
- Improved mobility and balance.
- Improved muscle strength and tone to protect your joints from injury.
- Improved sleep.
- Maintaining mobility, flexibility and balance.
- May help reduce or prevent cognitive decline.
- Improved sense of wellbeing – may boost your mood, self-confidence, improve body image and help you remain independent as you age.
There is actually a long list of why we should include strength training in our exercise routine. In addition to these benefits, strength training is vital in the health of our bones, metabolism and our body composition, strength and endurance.
There is significant research to show that strength training is an effective way to increase bone density. The risk of breaking a bone increases the lower your bone density is. Estrogen is a potent bone-builder and the decrease in estrogen post-menopausal increases this risk. For men, testosterone has direct positive effects on bone density and also acts indirectly through its conversion to estrogen.
Strengthening bones should be a priority regardless if you’re in a risk group. The denser our bones are, the lose over time may have fewer consequences. We also don’t have to be lifting heavy weights to get the desired results. We can get significant results using light weights, as long as you do a lot of repetitions, as this too puts stress on the bones, improving and maintaining bone density. This is particularly beneficial for older people who may be starting a strength training programme to do this low-load training.
Metabolism is the amount of energy in the form of calories we burn during the day. Strength training will increase muscle mass which in turn increases metabolism as muscle burns a higher percentage of calories. We also burn calories while we are at rest, resting metabolism, and this rate is much higher in those who add weights to their workout.
Body composition is the proportion of fat and fat-free mass in our body. To burn fat within our body we require oxygen. Adding weights with our cardio routine will increase oxygen consumption. This is because our feet perceive that our body is heavier and our muscles now need to overcome this increased resistance to be able to move our body. As a result, an increased oxygen intake through our lungs and increased blood circulation which will allow our muscles to work under this new, increased load. The fat cells will respond by accelerating the energy conversion process, which includes depleting fat accumulation to fuel the working muscles.
A few thing to remember when strength training;
- Warm up. Warming up before starting your training is essential to avoid injury. It should get your heart pumping which will get your blood and oxygen flowing around your body.
- Rest. Give your muscles time to recover, grow and prevent fatigue. A good rule is to give yourself at least 48 hours to rest the muscle group you’ve worked.
- Seek professional assistance. If you have never trained with weights before it is best to get the guidance from a trainer to make sure your using the equipment correctly and that your form is optimal to improve your outcome and prevent injury.
Strength training is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle that incorporates a nutrient rich diet and daily exercise. It provides many important benefits that cannot be achieved by any other exercise or activity. You will soon begin to see positive results that will spur you on and make this addition worth the effort.