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The Importance of Strength Training

The Importance of Strength Training

By Cindy Bourgoin

“Mom, would you tell Claude to quit making all that noise!” I yelled, attempting to fall asleep. In the room above me my brother, once named Mr. Junior America, was grunting in desperate attempts to lift that last repetition of heavy weights. Geesh, sometimes I thought weights were going to fall through the floor and come crashing down and land on my head! Well, thank goodness that didn’t happen. It did, however, begin to shape my thinking about training with weights.

Between the ages 30 and 35 years, we begin to lose muscle at a rate of about three to five pounds per decade. Unfortunately, this imminent aging process results in other problems. These can include a lower metabolic rate and resulting fat gain, decreased balance resulting in increased chances of falling and injuries, an overall loss of strength resulting in the inability to carry out daily functions (i.e. carrying groceries, lifting, and climbing stairs,) and a loss of muscle tone and firmness which can result in decreased self-confidence and poor body image.

Muscle is the engine of our bodies. It drives the metabolic rate. Increasing muscle tissue mass through weight training offsets the loss affected by aging. The higher metabolic rate keeps calories burning even while at rest. For every pound of muscle an additional 50 calories each day are burned without additional movement or effort, assisting in fat loss and weight management.

The muscles of the legs and core (abdominals and back), as well as smaller stabilizer muscles throughout the body, sustain the ability to stay on balance. If you thing about it, walking itself is really a process of stepping off balance (as you step off one foot), then regaining it when you plant both feet back together. Weight training maintains and develops muscular strength preventing balance falls and injuries. Strength requires for daily activities of living can also be maintained through strength exercises.

Many of my clients come to me personalizing their discouragement with their squishy, flabby bodies. I am touched by the sadness they feel because they are not comfortable with their significant partners. I can personally attest that increased tone and firmness is yet another benefit from lifting weights and I have seen a renewed self- confidence in both female and male clients.

Wait! There’s more. Weight training prevents disease and reduces the associated risks. Osteoporosis is a result of decreasing bone density. You may already be at risk if you are a Caucasian female with a thin frame and have a relative with known osteoporosis. Strength training pulls muscle against bone, causing bone regeneration. While some weight-bearing aerobic activity is also beneficial to hips and leg bones, weight training offers overall exercise for all the bones of the body. Combined programs of strength and flexibility exercises are notable for preventing and correcting orthopedic injuries. Shoulder and knee injuries are some of the most common. Recent research is identifying weight training to have beneficial effects on promoting good heart health and even lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. Higher intensity training increases the HDL cholesterol in blood (the good one that cleans out arteries) and forces the heart to pump more blood. Over time, decreases in both systolic and diastolic pressure are seen.

Type II diabetes affects many. Body fat loss can literally change the course of the devastating effects of this disease. Weight training is particularly effective in glucose metabolism as lean muscle mass increases.

Attention cardio enthusiasts—keep up all your good work! Cardiovascular activity is part of a well-rounded plan. But here’s a tip for you, too. If you’re a runner, strong legs and upper body developed with strength exercises will promote your speed. If you’re a swimmer, upper body strengthening will enhance will keep your rides swift and smooth.

A basic strength program consists of training the basic muscle groups of the chest, upper back, shoulders, arms, legs, abdominals, and lower back. Depending on many factors, including your current fitness, health history, and goals, your exercise prescription for strength may differ.