Before the sun rises, you’re out of bed dressed in your workout clothes. You head outside or to the nearest gym to partake in some early morning cardio to get your blood pumping and your energy levels up. When you’re finished with your routine, whether it’s running, biking, swimming, or any other cardio focused workout, you shower and dress for work, without picking up any free weights or touching a single weight machine. Sound familiar?
We’ve talked about the importance of a healthy diet, and of a generalized workout routine. But now it’s time to talk about why strength training is specifically important to achieving your fitness goals. Everyone has their own favorite gym activities, even if the gym isn’t your favorite place. But it’s important to step outside of your cardio comfort zone and focus on exercises that may not be all that enjoyable to you, like strength training.
It doesn’t matter if you use free weights or the weight machines at the gym to get in your strength training. The only thing that matters is that you put your muscles to use with specific workouts designed to build and strengthen them. If you’re looking for proof that strength training is important, don’t worry we’ve got that too.
Strengthen Your Heart
You may know that eating a healthy and well balanced diet full of protein, healthy fats (like omega-3’s), fiber, vitamins, and minerals, is important to the health of your heart. You might even be aware that cardiovascular exercises, like running, swimming, and biking are beneficial to maintaining heart health, since cardiovascular itself means relating to the heart or blood vessels. But it might come as a surprise to you that strength training also has significant health benefits for your heart. After all, the heart is the hardest working muscle in your body. In a study to determine the benefits of strength training for older adults, it was found that it has the ability to not only reduce the risk of heart disease, but also osteoporosis, and arthritis.
Increase Your Flexibility
There are workouts that are specifically designed to increase the flexibility of those performing the exercises, however it is important to note that exercises that are specifically targeted to strengthening muscles can provide the bonus of also increasing flexibility. Studies have shown that strength training is able to increase the flexibility of sedentary middle-aged women in many of their joints, including: shoulders, hips, and trunk flexion and extension. So while you are lifting weights to get those gains and grow your muscles, you’ll also enjoy the benefits of a bit more flexibility thanks to your new workout routine.
See Results Faster
If you are results driven, you likely want to see immediate results for your hard work and dedication to eating healthy and working. The best way to do that is to dedicate minimally about twenty to thirty minutes two to three days per week to strength training. While cardiovascular intensive activities will help you drop the excess belly fat in time, it only takes about a month of these strength training exercises to see significant toning and tightening results in your targeted muscles.
The way you feel about yourself can affect many different aspects of your life, which is why finding a healthy way to improve your self-esteem is incredibly important. Strength training has been found to have a positive effect on the self-esteem of children, adolescents, and the elderly. It is believed that since this correlation exists at a variety of life stages it will also work to improve the self-esteem of adults. There is also a chemically induced connection between your physical health and your psychological health, in that when you physically feel good, your psyche will also benefit. Physically feeling the results of strength training takes less than a month, which equates to a relatively quick self-esteem boost.
Studies show that strength training increases the brain’s natural release of endorphins, which help to boost moods in the average person. It has also been discovered that the establishment of strength training in the daily lives of clinically depressed patients helps to reduce depression levels. This effect occurred regardless of whether or not a change in fitness level was recorded. This suggests that the duration and intensity of a strength training exercise have less of a mood boosting effect on the patients than the frequency of the workouts does.
Prevent Future Injuries
Injuries can occur no matter what your physical fitness level is, but the likelihood of becoming injured lessens the stronger your muscles become. Strength training targets specific muscle groups to create a more stable body frame that will decrease the occurrence of future injuries related to workouts, and everyday life. Studies show that focusing on the strength and stability of your core muscles is essential to preventing the most common workout related injuries. By incorporating strength training into your routine it is possible to reduce the frequency of sports related injuries by ⅔ according to a study performed by Br J Sports Med in 2014.
If you’re one of those people that walks into the gym and has tunnel vision for the same four or five machines every single visit, it’s likely that your routine has become a bit boring for you. And if it hasn’t yet, it may be just around the corner. Rather than allowing your routine to stagnate and risk skipping the gym simply out of boredom, try adding in some strength training to your routine and benefit both physically and psychologically. Switching up your workout will not only ensure that you continue to make an effort to get to the gym, but it will also provide new and exciting results, to increase your enthusiasm and excitement for the new challenges that your body will face and overcome everyday.
Decrease Your Cancer Risk
You may not be able to decrease your risk of all cancers by incorporating strength training into your workout routine, but you may be able to inadvertently decrease your risk of developing some cancers. Strength training, and any other form of physical activity, generally work to improve your health. The healthier that you become the less likely it becomes that you may develop colon cancer, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, lung cancer, and prostate cancer.
Boost Your Brainpower
Strength training has been shown to increase cognitive functioning, regardless of age or gender. As you age the importance of maintaining mental health through both aerobic and strength training increases. Individual differences in genetic makeup and environmental conditions can alter the effects that different types of exercises have on the brain. So while some people will find improved cognitive functioning from lifting weights, others may find that they feel their brain boost following a cardiovascular workout.
Increase Your Basal Metabolic Rate
Once you understand what your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is, it’s relatively simple to understand how strength training helps to increase it and why that is important. In short, your BMR is the amount of energy that your body naturally requires while at rest to maintain basic human functions. The higher your BMR becomes the more calories your body will burn whilst sitting still. Muscles aid the body in increased calorie burning, and therefore the more strength training you perform, and the more muscle mass that you build, the higher your BMR will become, and the easier losing excess fat and burning calories will become. To learn more about what your basal metabolic rate is, how to measure it, and why it’s important read our BMR article.
Build Up Your Muscles
It may seem obvious that performing strength training exercises will make your muscles stronger, but it’s still worth mentioning. If you want to gain muscle mass, and increase your lifting ability, the best and most effective way of doing so is through targeting those specific muscles in your strength training workouts. While it might be necessary for bodybuilders to strength train five or six times per week, keep in mind that it is safest to space out your workouts and allow your muscles a chance to rest and heal in between workouts. This may mean that you only lift two or three times per week, but within a month of this regimen you will begin to see results.
Increase Your Productivity
As you are able to increase your self-esteem, boost your mood, prevent future injuries, and decrease your risk of cancer, it makes sense that your productivity might also increase. These are thoughts and concerns that tend to inhibit people from concentrating on the task at hand. When these health concerns are eliminated by the inclusion of strength training to your workout routine it frees your mind to allow better concentration and increased productivity. It is also worth noting that boosting your brainpower will aid in increasing your productivity simply because you will have more cognitive functioning to pull from.
Improve Your Quality of Sleep
Some adults find that they have trouble sleeping at night and resort to over the counter or prescribed medications to help solve their acute insomnia. A healthier and safer alternative however, is to simply add exercise, specifically strength training to their day. By exerting focused physical effort you will gain more focus and vibrancy during the day, while also creating an easier sleep environment at night. Studies have shown that high intensity physical resistance strength training can significantly improve the amount, and quality of sleep for most patients. It is especially helpful to those who live relatively sedentary lifestyles already, such as: office workers, nursing home patients, and transportation occupations. To learn more about how to get better sleep check out our REM sleep article.
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Craft, L. L., Ph.D, & Perna, F. M., Ed.D, Ph.D. (2004). The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed. Retrieved April 21, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC474733/
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