Okay, so last week we looked at the number one health and fitness component, cardiovascular exercise; strength is the next workshop on our list for your portfolio and it is vital. To prove my point, just consider how we typically lead our lives today. Many people will leave the house, drive to work, sit down all day at a computer, drive back home and sit down all evening. Shopping is ordered at the click of a mouse and a few hours later it’s hand-delivered into your kitchen. For all of these processes you barely have to lift a finger, let alone lift anything that’ll maintain your strength, muscle mass, posture and health. Factor in the plethora of labour-saving devices that have become part of our lives and it’s no surprise that as a race we’re struggling to keep ourselves strong, fit and healthy. Hence working out with weights should be a ‘must-do’ for both men and women and irrespective of age. Working on your strength will give you a gym-full of benefits so let’s get straight into looking at them all!
1. Maintain muscle mass. Aging is a real pain! Nature has decided that as we get older, our muscle mass will decrease with a subsequent impact on our health. No longer! Study after study has shown that regular resistance training will not only slow your loss of muscle, it can stop and even reverse it! So to counteract not only nature but 21st century sedentary lives, it’s vital to lift weights.
2. Maintain posture. At a basic level, the human body is a bag of bones supported and held together with muscle. Hundreds of muscles to be more precise. Neglect those muscles and the bag of bones (your skeleton) starts to hunch and sag and you start developing postural problems such as kyphosis (round shoulders) and lordosis (an excessively arched lower back). All this is resolvable and reversible via correctly prescribed resistance training.
3. Complete all tasks with ease. We should all be able to execute any daily task with ease. No using the arms of an armchair to help us stand up. No using a handrail to help pull us up stairs. No propping up our bodies against a wall because we’re simply not strong enough to support our own bodyweight for any length of time. Your strength-training routine should be ‘total body focused’ and by that I mean working on all major and minor muscle groups across a wide variety of workouts so that you remain in balance and strong all over. Then everything that you do becomes easier and you’ll become ‘all-over strong’.
4. Burn calories. Ah – the scourge of modern living; the never ending battle to ensure that you’re not consuming too many calories and putting on weight. Well by lifting weight and putting on some muscle mass, not only are you burning calories during exercise but you’re burning calories after exercise as well. In fact you’re burning calories 24 hours a day because muscle is a bigger calorie burner than any other tissue so even when you’re sedentary, you’re burning more calories because the energy cost of your body supporting muscle is greater than for any other tissue. Win-win!
5. Protect against disease. A strong body is a healthy body and a key example of that is how when you’re strong, your risk of suffering from osteoporosis is reduced. Osteoporosis is a disease that causes weakening of the bones (brittle bone disease), resulting in fractures, typically at the hip and wrist. It affects both men and women and whilst impact activities are highly recommended to strengthen the lower skeleton and spine, they do nothing for the remainder of your upper body. Step up to the plate – resistance training! The very action of you lifting weights causes your muscles to contract and force to be applied to your tendons. Your tendons are attached to your bones and it’s this force and subsequent pull on the bones that stimulates the actual bones themselves to get thicker and stronger. So that’s how working out with weights protects against osteoporosis. Now that’s an incentive to work out with weights all on its own!
6. Look good! And what’s wrong with that! Standing upright with good posture, shape to the body, clothes that fit well and the confidence that comes from knowing that you are strong and capable all combines to help you look and feel good. If that’s your incentive to hit the gym then absolutely fine because en route to lifting weights to look good, you’ll gain a whole kitbag of additional health and fitness benefits too so I’m fine with being image conscious.
7. Men AND women! The grunting end of the gym where all the weights sit that for so long was the domain of the testosterone fuelled alpha male is so yesterday!. And if it isn’t it should be! All our female Personal Training Clients lift weights as part of their training and they don’t have to grow beards and speak in a baritone to comply! No, my team and I incorporate resistance training into their workouts to ensure that they maximise their health benefits and none of them have entered a bodybuilding contest ever!
8. A lifelong commitment! Unless you’re taking on a job that harks back to yesteryear, where your working hours are spent lifting, carrying and you’re using all your muscles then you’re not going to maintain your strength and associated health with a 21st century lifestyle. Hence it’s key to build resistance training back into your life and for all your life. After all, just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean that you’re going to neglect your eating when you hit age 40 are you? Of course not, so why would you neglect other things that similarly have a huge impact on your long-term health and fitness? So begin working out with weights and mean to go on as you start.
9. . . . and finally, So, that’s a taster of the benefits of lifting weights, watch out for a later workshop where I’ll focus on the structure of your sessions and tips to get the most out of your resistance training. Enjoy your weights workouts from all the body4life health & fitness Team – that’s me, Jane, Duncan, Dave, Alison and Tony (we’re always worth our weight!).
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