Just 20 to 30 minutes, two or three times per week can positively affect your physical fitness, performance, and overall health!
Does the phrase “strength training” make you wince, throw your hands up in exasperation or simply run screaming in the opposite direction? “Strength training” usually conjures images of bodybuilders with bulging muscles who practically live at the gym. In fact, most people cite a fear of becoming too “bulky,” lack of time to make it to the gym, or not knowing how to get started as reasons for avoiding strength training.
There is a plethora of advantages to be gained from strength training and I hope to convince you that the benefits are worth the effort of adding strength training to your exercise regimen!
STRENGTH TRAINING FITS INTO YOUR DAY
Strength training need not steal several hours from your day. Given the proper intensity and areas targeted, you can complete an effective strengthening session in 20 to 30 minutes. At a recommended frequency of 2 to 3 times per week, it is entirely possible to fit into your life. Special equipment is not necessary either; if you don’t have access to a gym, all you need is you, an exercise ball, and a few hand weights and resistance bands (access to a bosu is a bonus).
PHYSICAL FITNESS BENEFITS OF STRENGTH TRAINING
Not only is strength training adaptable to your current exercise regimen, the resulting benefits will enhance your physical fitness, performance, and overall health. From a physical fitness perspective, strength training improves neuromuscular connections; messages from the brain are communicated more efficiently to the muscles. This translates into improved muscle strength and function. In fact, strength changes that occur during the first 6 to 12 weeks of a strengthening program are due to these more efficient neuromuscular connections. You will also see improved balance and coordination and alterations in body composition, with increased lean tissue mass and decreased percent body fat. The latter effect is often more pronounced in women, so that monitoring percent body fat for women is more likely to reflect increased physical fitness compared with monitoring weight. Finally, strength training combats known age-related loss of joint flexibility.
PERFORMANCE BENEFITS OF STRENGTH TRAINING
In terms of performance, improved balance and coordination translate into enhanced quickness and agility. Strength training also builds muscle endurance, which is the muscle’s ability to use oxygen; efficient oxygen usage enables muscles to perform better and longer. The coordination of muscles working together also improves, which translates into increased power. And last but not least, strength training boosts your VO2 max, which is the maximum capacity for your body to transport and use oxygen during exercise; this is an overall reflection of physical fitness. There is a limit to how high you can train your VO2 max to go, but that is a topic too lengthy to address here. For now, in simplest terms, the fitter you are, the higher your VO2 max.
OVERALL HEALTH BENEFITS OF STRENGTH TRAINING
The overall health benefits you can attain from strength training are quite numerous. Building muscle requires glucose, which is pulled into the muscle from the bloodstream. Studies have shown that people who weight train have better blood sugar control than people who do not. There is also evidence of improved immunological function, increased metabolism, and brain stimulation with strength training. It also increases bone mass as well as decreases pain, relieves stress, and improves sleep quality.
YOUR STRENGTH TRAINING PROGRAM AWAITS!
Now that we have discussed these amazing returns, are you are ready to begin a strength training program? First, check with your doctor to make sure that you are healthy enough to do so. Next, we recommend that you solicit expert advice. Ask at your gym (if you belong to one) for help creating a program or find a local personal trainer. Expert guidance is critical to ensure good form, exercises suited for your level, and tailoring the program to your specific needs and abilities.
For more information, tips, and words of wisdom on strength training, stay tuned to our website and facebook page for our new series, “Keep Moving!” with special guest contributor and certified personal trainer, Valerie McMillen!
For more information on starting a strength training program, click here to read an article on strength training for beginners from About.com’s Health section. This article, according to the website’s policy, was “written or medically reviewed by a board-certified physician.”