What is strength training?
Regular physical activity is essential for good health and includes walking and other activities that get the heart rate up. The value of strength training as a key component of overall health and fitness is often overlooked, especially once you reach your 50’s or beyond. It is also referred to as weight training or resistance training and involves the use of resistance against the contraction of muscles. This leads to building the strength, size and anaerobic endurance of skeletal muscles. It is typified by training with gymnasium equipment, and exercises that use your body weight, in order to increase muscle strength by making the muscles work against a weight or force.
What are the major health benefits of strength training?
- · Regardless of age or gender, nearly everyone will benefit from strength training
- · Increased muscle strength and prevention of muscle loss
- · Increased lean muscle mass
- · Improved muscle tone
- · Increased bone density by stressing the bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis
- · Maintaining flexibility and balance
- · Improved stamina
- · Easier weight management by burning calories more efficiently
- · Improved muscle to fat ratio
- · Improves insulin sensitivity, lowering the risk of most chronic diseases
- · Lowers the risk of metabolic syndrome (a range of conditions that increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, large waist circumference, and low HDL cholesterol.)
- · Lowers inflammation, which forms part of most chronic diseases
- · Improves cardiovascular fitness.
How to get started:
It is recommended to involve a professional health trainer to draw up a training programme, based on your level of fitness and general health. Such a training programme consists of various exercises that work the major muscle groups of the body. The programme is followed two to three times a week. As the muscles adapt, the intensity of the training can be progressively increased. A professional trainer will also show you the correct form and technique. Noticeable gains should be experienced within four to eight weeks.
A few hints for effective strength training:
- · Always warm up before the training starts and cool down afterwards.
- · Always adhere to the correct form and techniques, to avoid injuries and for maximum gain.
- · Breathe out during your power strokes and breathe in as you slowly release the load. Holding your breath while doing strength training raises the blood pressure, which could be dangerous for people with cardiovascular disease.
- · It can be harmful to lock your joints, it is best to leave a slight bend in the knees or elbows when straightening them out.
- · Be careful not to hurt yourself by overdoing the exercises, and rest your muscles for 48 hours between training sessions.
- · If you experience pain or severe discomfort while exercising, adapt to a range of motion that feels comfortable. You can increase the range of motion gradually over time.
Strength training: get stronger, leaner, healthier. Published online 22 April 20116. Mayo Clinic. (www.mayoclinic.org)
Resistance training – health benefits. Better Health Channel, Victoria State Government. Information reviewed 28 February 2014. (www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au)
Why strength training is so important for optimal health. Published online 30 June 2017 in Fitness peak, by Dr Mercola. (www.drmercola.com)
Want to live longer and better? Do strength training. Published online 29 June 2017 in Healthbeat, Harvard Medical School. (www.health.harvard.edu)