You may run, do Zumba, or spin on the stationary bike for miles, but without
strength training, your workout doesn’t have real muscle behind it.
“Strength training has both immediate and long-term benefits,” says
Christopher Walter, DO, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine physician with
Humboldt Medical Specialists in Fortuna. “Not only does it tone and sculpt your body, but working
out with weights can also build up strength as you age, when the body
starts to lose muscle mass and bone density.”
Studies in recent years have outlined the benefits of strength training.
Weight-bearing exercises help bones stay strong, which can combat osteoporosis.
It also can help us stay at a manageable weight, because our bodies burn
calories more efficiently. “Other positive results of strength training
include sharper mental focus when we get older, increased stamina and
balance, better quality of sleep and improvement in chronic diseases such
as arthritis and diabetes,” says Dr. Walter. “In addition,
as you build up strength in your muscles, bones and connective tissue,
you can reduce your risk of injury.”
There are several options to choose from when it comes to selecting a strength-training
program. “You can use your body weight with exercises such as pushups,
squats and planks, or in something like yoga,” Dr. Walter says.
“There are also resistance tubes that are pliable but still provide
tension when you use them. And of course, there are weight machines like
you have at the gym as well as free weights.”
But before you choose one of those weight-training methods, you should
first get cleared by your doctor, especially if you are new to strength
training. Once you get the OK, it’s best to consult with a trainer.
“A trainer can help you come up with a regimen you can follow and,
most importantly, she can make sure you have the proper form—without
that, you aren’t getting the full benefit of the exercise and you
leave yourself open to injury,” Dr. Walter says.
At the start, choose a weight that allows you to do about 12 reps of a
move before the muscle tires out. As the moves get easier, you can add
more weight. “You don’t want to exhaust yourself completely,
but you also don’t want it to be too easy,” Dr. Walter says.
“Novices should always start out lighter on weights to ensure they
get the form down.” Your muscles will be sore from the new exercises,
and that’s normal, but if you feel sharp pain or see swelling in
the area, you should see your doctor in case you’ve hurt yourself.
You can incorporate strength training into your workout routine about two
or three times a week but always taking a day of rest in between sessions
to let your muscles recuperate.
“The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you aim
for eight to 12 reps each of eight to 10 exercises,” Dr. Walter
says. “Those exercises should target the major muscle groups, such
as the back, quads, chest and shoulders. And before every weight-training
session, you should warm up with light cardio or stretches.”
Dr. Walter adds that you should stop if you ever feel lightheaded or sick.
“There’s no reason to overexert yourself – weight-training
can be a lifelong part of your wellness program so take the time at the
beginning to learn how to work out properly. Once you get going, you’ll
see the changes to your body and that’s always a great motivator.
And remember—your body will be changing on the inside, too, in ways
that will have a lasting effect on your health.”
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