Have you ever felt intimidated by the gym’s free weights or thought cardio is the only helpful way to exercise? If strength training is something you have been avoiding for any reason, I encourage you to reconsider. From helping build stronger bones and joints to weight management, strength training does so much good for your body.
What is strength training?
Strength training is a form of physical exercise that uses resistance to build and strengthen your muscles. Whether it’s lifting weights, circuit training, or doing bodyweight exercises, there are several ways to incorporate strength training into your exercise regimen.
What are the benefits of strength training?
Many women have avoided strength training out of fear of gaining too much muscle mass and looking bulky. That’s not at all what happens. Rather, it helps to tone and strengthen your muscles and teaches you awareness of how to decrease compensations with daily activities. Strength training is essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and can even help you live longer. Here are some benefits every woman should know about strength training.
Stronger bones. For women, bone density, or how strong your bones are, decreases with age, especially after menopause. When you do strength training exercises, it puts weight or stress on your bones, triggering them to fight back and get stronger. Building strong bones is important for preventing osteoporosis. Bodyweight exercise is the best way to reduce your risk of osteoporosis.
Increased muscle mass. Having strong muscles helps make things you do every day easier, like carrying your baby, walking up and down stairs or carrying in groceries. Strength training teaches your muscles and joints how to work and move the way they should, helping to prevent injury and improve your balance and stability.
Weight loss. While we usually associate cardio as the fastest way to burn fat and lose weight, strength training also burns calories. You may not be getting as sweaty as you would doing jumping jacks or jumping rope, but even after you’ve finished lifting weights, your body is still burning calories. This is due to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), more commonly known as afterburn, and can last several hours after your workout.
Lower stress levels and better mental health. Strength training can help improve your mood and decrease your anxiety levels, ultimately promoting better mental health. It can help with your self-esteem as you get more comfortable with your workout routine and accomplish goals you’ve set for yourself, like going up in dumbbell weights or repetitions. This confidence boost can contribute to lower stress levels.
Life longevity. Incorporating strength training into your workout routine can help you live longer. Research shows that strength training can help reduce the risk of chronic conditions, like diabetes, arthritis, or obesity, and lowers your risk of mortality.
No matter your fitness level, you can start strengthening your muscles with resistance training at any time. Make sure to take it slow and start with the basics. Which exercises you start with are dependent on your current fitness level. If you have not been exercising it can be helpful to start with bodyweight exercises on your back, side, stomach, or in a seated position. If you currently work out you could start with bodyweight exercises, like bridges, squats, lunges, crunches and modified or full planks. Once you feel comfortable with these movements, try incorporating weights or resistance bands to help increase the level of difficulty.
If you don’t know the proper way to use specific equipment or perform certain exercises, talk with your primary care doctor who can refer you to a physical therapist or also based on your insurance your physical therapist may be able to see you without a referral and help you safely begin your strength training journey.
To find a provider near you visit www.pardeehospital.org.
Jessica Dennison is a licensed physical therapist with Pardee Physical Therapy.