Keeping physically fit and healthy can mean different things to different people. Some people run, walk, practice yoga, take a Zumba or CrossFit Class, swim, or cycle. Whilst the most important thing is to do something that you enjoy and consistently do, there are multiple health benefits that will come from including some form of Strength Training in your exercise regime.
Why you should practise strength training
Strength training can often be something that is feared or causes intimidation for people, but I would argue being strong is a necessary part of being able to live a long and healthy life. It’s important as we evolve that we are able to deal with the demands of our lifestyle, and whilst we’re not running from Sabretooth Tigers and hunting for meat anymore, we do still need to be able to climb, jump, lift our children out of the bath, walk up the stairs and be able to protect ourselves against trips and falls. This is where Strength Training comes in.
How are we defining strength training?
“Functionally, strength training is an activity in which muscles move dynamically against weight (or other resistance) with small but consistent increases in the amount of weight being lifted over time.”
The idea with strength training is that we get better. We improve. We lift more weight over time, training our muscles to become stronger and bigger. Our individual capacity to be able to do this depends on multiple factors such as frequency, genetics, nutrition, sleep, and recovery. The physical changes that can happen to our bodies when we strength train can be visible, with a leaner physique and less body fat, but the impact that Strength Training can have on our health is often not spoken about and, in my opinion, far more important.
Benefits of regular strength training
Regular strength training (2-3 times per week) has the physiological benefits of strengthening the muscles, bones and joints and improving balance, coordination, and proprioception. The increase in insulin resistance as a result of more muscle tone generates overall confidence mentally and physically.
Women in particular often benefit from improved body image, usually resulting from a shift in mentality from exercising as a punishment for excessive food consumption to a greater focus on what their bodies are able to achieve. Progress with strength training is instantly more tangible as you move up the weights, improve your form and technique and are able to feel the effects in your muscles, as well as feeling more capable during day-to-day activities.
Why is having increased muscle tone so beneficial? As we age, age-related diseases such as osteoporosis, arthritis, stroke and cardiovascular disease start to become more prevalent. Often, being old and infirm, and generally leading a more sedentary lifestyle means we become frail, and our chances of early mortality increase.
The recommendations of regular strength training, activity outside of exercise, and some cardio to keep effective lung function, as well as trying to include a hobby can all begin to feel quite overwhelming! So how many times should you strength train? If you’re new, two to three times a week is plenty. Make these total body workouts, hitting all the main muscle groups and pushing yourself to a point where your muscles really feel like they’re working.
How to start your strength training
If you’re really unsure how to start, I recommend investing in a couple of sessions with a Personal Trainer to teach you the correct form and keep you safe. Effective strength training comes with very minimal risks unless you already have some injuries that need to be navigated, but it is always worth investing in some coaching so you know what movements work effectively for your body. We all have a body and can move in similar ways, but what works for one person might not necessarily work for you! There are no right or wrong exercises; just right or wrong for your physiology.
The most important thing to keep in mind when thinking about incorporating strength training into your routine is how many times can you realistically and consistently get your sessions in. Twice a week is plenty if those sessions are effective, you’re working your muscles to the point of discomfort and you’re leaving feeling energised. Your sleep, energy levels, overall health and relationship with your body will improve and you will be bulletproofing your body for years to come.
If Personal Training is something that isn’t an option for you, come and learn to strength train at one of our Small Group Strength Training Classes. A fun and supportive environment where you can learn effective movement relative to your body, and feel more confident moving weights and in general everyday life activities.