Imagine that your body is a motor vehicle. Your muscles release energy and produce movement (like an engine); absorb impact forces that otherwise could destroy your bones, connective tissue and joint structures (like shock absorbers); and provide the framework that enables you to function physically (like the chassis). Just as mechanics know that proper maintenance keeps your car in good shape, researchers are finding that strength training plays a vital role in keeping your muscles well-tuned.
You may have avoided strength training because you believed it increases muscle mass excessively, decreases your flexibility or increases your body weight, but research indicates that none of these notions is necessarily correct. It is largely dependent upon who you are (e.g. it is very difficult for women to increase muscle mass dramatically) and what type of strength training you do.
The Benefits of Strength Training
Some of the benefits that strength training provide include:
It Improves Body Composition.
Your body is divided into fat weight and lean weight. Your lean weight includes muscle tissue (about 50% of your total lean weight), bones, organs and skin. As you age, the percentage of body fat typically increases because you lose muscle mass. Regular strength training exercises prevents muscle loss and maintains a desirable body composition.
It Increases Your Metabolic Rate.
Your resting metabolic rate represents the amount of energy you need on a daily basis to sustain your life functions. Even at rest, muscle is very active tissue. Consequently, muscle loss results in a reduction in your metabolic rate. Because less muscle means lower energy requirements, calories that were previously used for muscle maintenance now are stored as fat. Sensible strength training is the best means of avoiding decreases in muscle mass and metabolic rate, and guarding against the obesity creep.
It Improves Physical Ability and Physical Performance
Stronger muscles enable you to perform every physical activity more easily. The stronger you are, the less effort required to perform ‘everyday’ activities. Also, almost every athletic activity involves power, which is the product of muscle force and movement speed. Almost without exception, more power equals better performance, so a stronger athlete is a better athlete.
It Improves Posture.
When your body is stronger (including your core), you are better able to hold yourself with good posture, your back aches less, there is less stress in your neck and your legs feel strong. You simply function better! This can also have a positive effect on self-confidence. Most people who increase their strength report an increase in self-confidence.
How Much Is Enough?
Although a personal trainer can help determine the best program for you, as a general rule benefits can be achieved from training 2 – 3 non-consecutive days per week. Ensure that you incorporate exercises for all of the body, i.e. exercises for the legs, chest, back and core. You should use enough resistance to fatigue the muscle group by the end of each set.
Training your muscles does take some effort, but no matter what age you are, you’ll find that strength training will fuel a healthy lifestyle and help you function better in all aspects of your life.