Cardiovascular exercise, such as walking, jogging, swimming, biking, etc., seems to be the go-to form of exercise. “Cardio,” as it is more often referred to, is an excellent way to work the heart and lungs, and is an important part of any exercise program.
But what about strength training? It is often overlooked even though it has health benefits for most everyone, from very weak individuals to those with physically demanding jobs, regardless of age. An active lifestyle that includes some type of strength training is another component of exercise that we can do to improve our health and feel our best.
Using equipment such as dumbbells, resistance bands, or even your own body weight for just 20-30 minutes two to three times a week can offer numerous benefits. Still need a reason to strength train? Here’s why you should:
• Stronger muscles — Strength training helps to prevent muscle loss that we lose as we age. This allows for better quality of life improving movement, balance and flexibility that we need for daily living. Activities such as getting up out of a chair or car, unloading dishes and putting them up, carrying groceries, maneuvering yourself through a crowd of people, yard work, housecleaning, etc., will all be easier to do. Plus, by being stronger, you have a decreased risk of falling.
• Stronger bones — Research shows that strength training can increase bone density, which helps to decrease risks of bone conditions such as osteoporosis and osteopenia.
• Managing or preventing chronic conditions/diseases — Strength training has positive effects on many health-related issues such as high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes. Exercising with some type of resistance can sometimes be as effective as taking medication for issues with arthritis and low back pain. I have a client in her 80s who trains twice a week with various types of resistance. Her low-back pain has subsided significantly and her ability to do daily activities has improved.
• Weight loss — Having more lean muscle will help to burn more calories. The more muscle you have, the more fat you’re able to burn.
• Not only does strength training help with a more toned appearance, but it can also improve your mood, sleep, energy, stress levels, posture, brain health, and so much more.
Strength training can be done in a gym, group class, or even your own home with very little to no equipment. After getting clearance from your physician, seek the advice of a certified fitness professional to get started with a program that’s right for you.
Anne Bradley Merchant, a certified medical exercise specialist, works at Baptist HealthwoRx Fitness & Wellness Center in Lexington Green.