The reasons you need to be doing strength training
Updated: Jun 26, 2021
Did you know in 2010 the World Health Organisation added to it’s Physical Activity Recommendations 2 strength training sessions per week*? There is good reason as seemingly every few months new benefits from strength training (also known as resistance or weight training) emerge.
I recently came across an article in the Sydney Morning Herald which pointed toward a Sydney University study which showed a 23% reduction in risk of premature death and a 31% reduction on cancer-related death amongst those who did 2 strength training sessions per week. The people who only did cardiovascular exercise did not have the reduction in risk of cancer related death.
This is in addition to the already known benefits of strength training with regards to metabolic rate, bone density and blood sugar control for diabetics. There is also more research by Sydney Uni to suggest there is benefit from weight training for cognitive function. [I must add that Sydney Uni will also soon be releasing the results of a trial of power type strength training for those with Lewy Body dementia].
What's more a Deakin University research review suggests an increased risk of mental heath issues and loss of daily function as a result of muscle wasting associated with ageing (but more accurately caused by inactivity).
Add to that the research showing that weight training could be good for lifting or reducing the effects of depression, and strength training is starting to look undeniably positive for just about everyone in so many ways.
Additionally, if you want to change the shape of your body and simply ‘look good’ there is nothing more effective than strength training. There is then the obvious translation from ‘looking good’ to ‘feeling good’, furthermore it’s pretty clear when you feel good you have better health. Not only that there is also the sense of personal power that can come through lifting weights, as well as the purging or venting effect, which is a fantastic way to reduce the negative effects of stress.
How much, how often and what equipment is needed to get the benefits?
Bear in mind that for most of the benefits highlighted it only takes 2 sessions a week of about 30 minutes and this can be achieved with basic equipment. There is an infinite number of exercises that can be done with a park bench, some kind of pull up or chin up bar and some light to moderate sized dumbbells. You can do a really effective session in your own home and there are an increasing number of free public outdoor gyms popping up as all levels as governments realise the health benefits to the community of regular strength training. (I envisage an abundance of these outdoor gyms in a few years & that strength training will generally be a much bigger part of mainstream medicine) I should add that you can also make your strength training sessions even more beneficial and time effective by using the break between sets to do cardiovascular exercise such as star jumps or jumping jacks. You could also use this time to alternate the strength exercises with stability or stretching exercises. I almost forgot that you could throw some balance exercises in there too! There are so many options with strength training exercises and combinations that in 25 years I can’t recall being bored at all. After all these years I still love trying new exercises and designing my next program and although I’m no Hercules I certainly notice and feel the difference if I’m forced to have a break.
Some guidelines to help
Here are a few general rules with strength training to keep in mind: * Allow 48 hours recover between sessions * If you are feeling it in a joint then stop and/or change/modify what you are doing * It’s generally safer and more beneficial to move the weight (or your own bodyweight) slowly. * Increase the repetitions or weight slowly over time. Progression is important but consistent gradual progression is the key for injury prevention and sustainable strength gains.
So there you have it- if you want better health (on many levels), and to simply look and feel better you’d be mad not to get into a strength training routine ASAP.
*Note: that the WHO recommendations include seniors (65 years+) and that you can increase strength and build muscle at ANY age. In short strength training is fantastic for seniors. [This article from 'The Age' highlights further the degree to which loss of muscle is impacting senior's in Australia and how understated it is within the medical system.]
** Note: If you have any medical conditions it is important to consult your doctor before begginning an exercise program.