If you knew that a certain sort of exercise could benefit your heart, improve your balance, strengthen your muscles, and help you eliminate weight while making you feel and look better, wouldn’t you want to get started? Well, studies show that strength training may provide all those benefits and much more.
Strength training — also called resistance or weight training — is bodily action designed to improve muscular fitness by exercising a particular muscle or muscle group against external resistance, including free-weights, weight machines, or even your own body weight, according to the American Heart Association.
“The simple principle is to employ a load and overload the muscle so that it ought to adapt and get stronger,” explains Neal Pire, CSCS, an exercise physiologist and also the national director of wellness services at Castle Connolly Private Health Partners in NYC.
And what is important for all to understand is that strength training isn’t only about bodybuilders lifting weights in a gym. Standard strength or resistance training helps stop the pure loss of lean muscle mass which comes with aging (the medical term for this reduction is sarcopenia).
Strength training is a significant part of your overall fitness and benefits people of all ages, especially those with health issues such as arthritis, obesity, or even a heart condition.
The newest Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), recommends children and teens ages 6 through 17 incorporate strength training into their daily 60 minutes of physical activity three times each week. Adults should plan to perform moderate or extreme muscle-strengthening workouts that target all muscle groups for two days each week.
And you have to rest in between strength-training workouts.
“The thing about strength training is that you don’t get better during workouts; you get better in between,” states Pire. “You should give yourself a day between strength training to enable your body to recuperate and rebuild the muscle tissue from the stimulus of resistance or lifting.”
Why is power training so important? Listen to hints from Kelsey Wells, a coach with the exercise app Sweat and creator of the PWR weight-training programs.
How Power Training Helps Your Health
Besides the well-touted (and frequently Instagrammed) benefit of incorporating tone and definition into your muscles, how does strength training aid? Here are only a few of the many ways.
1. Strength training makes you fitter and stronger.
This advantage is the obvious one, but it should not be overlooked. “Muscle power is crucial in making it simpler to do the things you want to do on an everyday basis,” Pire says — especially as we age and obviously begin to drop muscle.
Strength training is also known as resistance training since it entails toning and strengthening your muscles by contracting them against a resisting force. There are two kinds of resistance training:
- Isometric resistance entails contracting your muscles against a nonmoving object, like against the floor at a push-up.
Isotonic strength training entails contracting your muscles via a variety of motion as in weight lifting.
2. Strength training protects bone health and muscle mass.
At approximately age 30 we begin losing as much as 3 to 5 percent of lean muscle mass annually because of aging.
According to a study published in October 2017 at the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, only 30 minutes twice per week of high-intensity resistance and influence training was shown to improve operational performance, in addition to bone density, structure, and strength in postmenopausal women with low bone mass — and it had no negative outcomes.
Similarly, the HHS guidelines notice that, for everyone, muscle-strengthening activities help maintain or increase muscle mass, strength, and power, which are essential for bone, joint, and muscle health as we get older.
3. Strength training helps to keep the weight off once and for all.
Aerobic exercise such as walking, jogging, and biking is well known as a way to help increase the number of calories you burn off in a day and thus lose extra pounds. But strength training aids, too (even when you’re not burning a huge number of calories during the exercise).
Exercise science researchers guess strength training is great for weight loss because it helps increase your resting metabolism (meaning that the rate at which your body burns calories when you are just going about your day, not exercising).
“A fantastic resistance exercise increases your excess energy oxygen consumption (EPOC),” Pire says, referring to the calories that your body continues to burn after a workout.” [Resistance or strengthening exercise] keeps your metabolism active after exercising, much more than following an aerobic workout.”
A study published in the journal Obesity in November 2017 found that, in comparison with dieters who did not exercise and those who did just aerobic exercise, dieters who did strength training exercises four times a week for 18 months lost the most fat (about 18 lbs, compared with 10 pounds for non-exercisers and 16 pounds for aerobic exercisers).
4. Strength training helps you develop better body mechanisms.
Strength training also rewards your balance, coordination, and posture. One study showed that in elderly people who are at higher risk of falling (and resulting in a lot of damage) because of exaggerated bodily functioning, strength training decreased the danger of falling by 40 percent compared with individuals who didn’t do strength-training exercise.
“Balance is dependent upon the strength of these muscles which keep you on your toes,” Pire notes. “The more powerful those muscles, the greater your balance”
5. Strength training can help with chronic disease control.
Studies have reported that the numerous wellness benefits of strength training, including helping people with some chronic diseases manage their own conditions. If you have arthritis, strength training can be as effective as medication in reducing arthritis pain.
And for the 14 million Americans with type 2 diabetes, strength training along with other healthier lifestyle changes can help improve blood control.
6. Strength training boosts energy levels and improves your mood.
Strength training increases your level of endorphins (natural opiates produced by the mind ), which lift energy levels and enhance mood. “All exercise promotes mood because it increases endorphins,” Pire states. However, for strength training, additional research that’s considered neurochemical and neuromuscular answers to these workouts provides further evidence it has a beneficial impact on the brain (such as a 2014 study published in Frontiers in Psychology), he adds.
As if that isn’t enough to convince you, then there is evidence strength training may help you sleep better, also.
7. Strength training equates to more calories burned.
Strength training helps boost your metabolism (the speed your resting body burns calories throughout the day). But resistance or weight training can help improve your calorie burn during and after your workout, too.
You burn calories through resistance training, and your body continues to burn calories after strength training (just like you do following aerobic exercise), a process referred to as”excess post-exercise oxygen intake” or EPOC, as stated by the American Council on Exercise. If you do energy, weight, or resistance training, your body needs more energy based on how much energy you are exerting (meaning that the tougher you’re working, the more energy is required). That means more calories burned during the workout, and more calories burned following the workout, too, though your body is recovering to a resting condition.
8. Strength training has cardiovascular health benefits.
Together with aerobic exercise, muscle-strengthening physical activity helps improve blood pressure, according to HHS. (2) The government recommends performing muscle-strengthening actions twice per week and 150 minutes of each week moderate-intensity activity at minimal to help lessen hypertension and reduced the risk of heart disease.
Getting Started: How to Insert Strength Training to Your Routine
If you are looking to add strength or resistance training into your routine you’ve got a lot of alternatives, Pire notes. You definitely don’t want a gym membership or expensive weight machines, he adds. “Squatting to a seat in your home, push-ups, boards, or other motions that require you to use your own body weight as resistance be very effective.”
If you have any health issues, ask your doctor what kind of strength training is ideal to meet your needs and skills. You might even use a fitness pro to design a strength-training program that will be safe and effective for you.
Who doesn’t need to look better, feel better, and live a longer, healthier life? What exactly are you waiting for? Get started now with a complete workout program that includes strength training.