We all know that performing regular physical activity is essential to everyday health. With the onslaught of fad exercise programs, maybe you feel overwhelmed and just don’t know how to start exercising, or can’t decide which exercise program is best for you. I typically say the best exercise is the one you’re actually going to do. The reality is that many of us spend most of our day sitting at a desk in front of a screen, and any movement is going to benefit the body, so you might as well do something you enjoy.
Many women prefer to perform cardio-based exercises, such as walking, running, spin, and dance, or other aerobic classes. These are wonderful activities and provide many benefits to your health. I would never advocate that you stop doing these activities. I will, however, ask that you consider adding some strength training to your routine. If you’re a bit wary of trying something new, consider these fun facts:
Strength training builds muscle
This may seem obvious, but the truth is that as we age we begin to lose muscle mass, resulting in decreased strength. In fact, women begin losing muscle mass much sooner than men and everyday tasks such as carrying groceries, going up and down stairs, or opening jars can become increasingly difficult. By performing strength training exercises, you can maintain your strength, or even get stronger, so that you can continue to perform these tasks with ease.
More muscle means more fat burn
If you’re trying to lose weight or inches, strength training can help you do it so much more effectively than cardio alone. As you gain muscle, your metabolism increases, allowing more efficient fat burn. As your body builds muscle, it is important to remember that the number on the scale does not tell the whole story. Muscle weighs more than fat, so if you are trying to lose weight and have a target number in mind, or if you are already at your ideal weight and notice the number on the scale going up, do not fret! Focus on how you feel and how your clothes fit as a better indicator for progress.
Strength training decreases your risk for osteoporosis
Strength training provides the weight baring forces needed to promote bone growth. Women are more likely than men to develop osteoporosis and performing strength training exercises is one way you can help prevent it.
If you’re still unsure whether you should begin a strength training program, consider this: Strength training is not limited to lifting heavy weights. If you find the free weight area of a gym intimidating, start with body weight exercises, such as squats, lunges, push-ups, and planks. Yoga and Pilates are also great forms of strength training, as well as the use of suspension trainers, such as the TRX.
As you gain confidence with body weight strength exercises, you can begin to incorporate resistance bands and light weights. If you already include light weight lifting in your exercise routine, I challenge you to increase the weight your lifting. If your purse weighs more than the weight your lifting for exercise, it’s time to increase the weight.
Building and maintaining muscle requires that you challenge yourself regularly. This can mean increasing the weight your lifting, or increasing the repetitions you perform. If you prefer body weight exercises, you can challenge yourself by trying new exercises or a more advanced variation of the exercise you’re already performing. Either way, have fun with it and think of the benefits your body is receiving as you build a strong and healthy body.