Strength training is an important part of an overall fitness/wellness program. “Use it or lose it” is an expression that applies to many areas of life, especially fitness. The aging process naturally diminishes muscle mass within the body. “If you don’t do anything to replace the lean muscle you lose, you’ll increase the percentage of fat in your body,” says Edward Laskowski, M.D., a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Mayo Clinic. “But strength training can help you preserve and enhance your muscle mass at any age.”
The benefits of adding a strength-training component to your workout routine two to three times a week can be noticed rather quickly. Muscle mass becomes leaner, body fat is reduced, and the body is capable of burning calories more efficiently. Long term benefits of strength training include: strong bones, weight control, reduced risk of injury, increased sports performance, increased stamina, increased strength, and sharpened focus. Research is proving that not only your body but also your mind can be greatly improved with strength/resistance training. Mental health benefits worthy of noting include: decreased chronic fatigue, reduction in depression, improved memory, improved self-esteem, decreased anxiety, improved cognition, and improved quality of sleep.
Strength training can be done at home, outside, or at the gym with a variety of equipment options. Personal body weight, resistance tubing, free weights, and weight machines are some of the options. Using a variety of equipment and strategies on staggered training days will enhance results. Adding dynamic exercises that combine lower and upper body movements will not only save you time, but add fat-burning results and heart-healthy benefits. The combination increases the heart rate, adding a cardiovascular component to the weight lifting routine. As a specific example, medicine ball exercises can easily be incorporated into full body, explosive (plyometric) type exercises that raise the heart rate, thus pushing the body to enter the fat burning target zone. The weighted center of a medicine ball forces you to use different muscle groups to lift, throw, bounce, or twist with the ball. You can add intensity to your routine by adding the ball to group exercises, sports training, or even rehabilitation movements.
Weight lifting isn’t just for men either; women need to join the strength-training revolution. As the saying goes, “curls are for the girls, tris (triceps) are for the guys!” News flash…muscle tissue is metabolically active, even at rest. That means, after a strength training session your muscles will efficiently burn fat continuously throughout the day. As muscle tissue increases with training, so does metabolic activity. The moral of the story…cardio isn’t the only way to burn fat and shed pounds!
The evidence is quite impressive when considering how weight training can positively affect the mind and body. Next time you’re feeling blue or lacking energy, grab some resistance gear and remember….for a mental lift, you should weight lift!