You already know that push-ups make you want to puke, and that a few cans of peas can sub for a set of dumbells in a pinch.
But beyond that, do you really know squat about strength training? What is it, exactly? And why should you be doing it?
Well, strength training is any activity that causes your muscles to contract against weight, which leads to an increase in the strength and size of the muscles. Keep reading to learn more about how lifting weights and strengthening exercises can be beneficial to your bod and your overall health.
1. Strength training may stop the spread of belly fat
A study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that women who participated in strength training programs two times a week vs. women who participated in aerobics alone lost more body fat AND had less abdominal fat (which is linked to metabolic syndrome, heart disease) than the aerobics-only group.
2. Reduces blood pressure
A July 2009 study by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine confirmed that one hour of strength training can reduce your blood pressure enough to drop stroke risk by 25 percent.
3. Fewer sick days
People who participate in a strength training routine tend to have stronger immune systems. By building muscle, your body has the protein it needs in reserve to draw upon during illness. Your body will use the protein to create white blood cells and antibodies to fight infection. Exercise also has an anti-inflammatory effect, which is good for overall immune health.
4. Healthier joints
According to the Arthritis Foundation, the leading cause of osteoarthritis is a sedentary lifestyle. Working out with weights increases the size of your muscles and gives you stronger joints. Strong muscles also help you achieve better balance and coordination. Doing regular endurance strength training can also defend your muscles from atrophy as you age.
5. Improves Balance
Weekly yoga classes can improve strength, balance, and flexibility, which can help prevent falls as we age. Strong muscles also help you achieve better coordination.
6. Builds Bones
Bone density peaks by age 30, but through strength training, it’s possible to increase bone density and help prevent osteoporosis. Weight-bearing exercise increases your bone density by encouraging the release of growth hormone in your body, and it promotes new bone cell growth. Becoming stronger through exercise also protects your bones by helping you prevent falls.
7. Increased metabolism
Experts say that strength training of any type can increase the number of calories your body burns by as much as 7 percent a day. Muscle occupies about 30% less space than fat, so even if the number on the scale isn’t moving, you may see a big difference in the way your clothes are fitting.
8. Improves insulin sensitivity
Strength training is effective for improving your body’s insulin sensitivity, which is important to help prevent and control diabetes. Extra muscle gives your body somewhere to store glucose, and building muscle mass can help keep your body’s glucose levels in normal ranges. It also improves insulin sensitivity in those individuals with diabetes to the same extent that aerobic exercise does.
9. Increases metabolic rate
As you get older, your basal metabolic rate decreases, which means fewer calories burned while you rest. Strength training can increase your muscle mass and raise your basal metabolic rate. Increasing your metabolic rate enables you to burn more calories both while at rest and during activity.
10. Promotes Better Mental Health
Exercise increases blood, oxygen and chemicals in the brain that help you have more focus and less stress. It also helps reduce stress hormones such as cortisol, and helps relieve symptoms of depression. Getting regular exercise enables you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer which results in a better quality of sleep. An exercise programs that includes strength training has been shown to be as effective in treating depression as antidepressant medications – but without any negative side effects. Recent studies show that after a strength training workout, endorphin levels are increased by more than 60 percent – leaving you feeling happy and calm. Ahhh….
Holly Brown, Health Educator at Greenlite Medicine
Holly is a nutritional consultant and weight loss coach. Greenlite Medicine offers personalized, comprehensive weight loss and nutrition programs that provide fast and lasting results – without any of the gimmicks. With a passionate team of experts that provide accountability, support, and resources, clients learn how to implement lifestyle changes to transform their bodies, beliefs and attitudes about food. Like Greenlite on Facebook or follow them on Twitter for low-carb recipes, healthy tips and more.