We’re constantly being told in media, on blogs (including this one!) and on Instagram about how important physical activity is, usually referring to moving: whether it’s the ‘Couch to 5k’ app, doing 10,000 steps a day, never sitting down. Without doubt, these are all important ways to help keep the heart healthy. However, there is only the occasional nod to ‘2 x strength sessions per week’. For me, this is equally as important as hitting 10,000 steps in a day.
Why though? Well, we lose strength as we age, and this can be partially responsible for functional disabilities and limitations in the elderly. I’m not even *nearly* elderly, though, I hear you say. That’s great – but strength training important for everyone. The benefits of strength training reach across the spectrum of health and wellness.
Strength training has been found to decrease body fat percentage, even when the subject of the study was not on a ‘diet’. In a study, subjects were split into two groups: a cardiovascular training and diet group, a strength training and diet group and a diet group alone. All groups had a reduction in visceral fat, with the diet alone groups reducing visceral fat by 32%, the cardiovascular and diet group by 40% and strength training and diet group by 39%.
Reduced chance of injury
Strength training can help maintain bone mineral density. Strength training has also been reported to increase bone mineral density, which is important as we get older (especially for women) to prevent osteoporosis and reduce the risk of bones breaking during trip and falls.
Decreases the chances of falls
As we age, we lose muscle mass and strength, losing strength is a risk factor in fall. Performing strength training twice a week maintains and improves strength, power, and walking speed, which are all risk factors for falls, and so improving all of these reduces the risk for falls.
Lower blood pressure
Studies have been carried out comparing strength and cardiovascular training on the reduction of blood pressure. Both types of training reduced blood pressure readings, with no significant difference between the two groups. Research has reported systolic blood pressure to drop by 7-9mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 5-6mm Hg. These studies where carried out on people with blood pressure no higher than mild. Although no significant difference was show between cardiovascular training and strength training it shows that you have a choice.
Improve glucose metabolism
Strength training has been reported to improve glucose metabolism even when a person’s body fat or VO2 max has not changed. These changes are better for an individuals metabolic health through changes in protein content of GLUT4, insulin receptor, protein kinase, glycogen synthase, and glycogen synthase total activity.
Positive impact on Cancer treatment
Strength training has been reported to have positive effects on people going through cancer treatments. Studies have shown strength training to counterbalance the catabolic effect of cancer treatment, it has been reported to increase growth hormone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), interlukin 6 (IL-6) and tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha).
So, next time you’re at the gym, don’t walk past the resistance machines. Sit down and complete 1-3 sets of 12-15 repetitions on a weight you find difficult to lift (but not impossible, of course). If you feel like you don’t belong to a gym – yet! – you can always start by doing a bodyweight home workout – squats, step ups, hip bridge, press ups and core work. We’ve got lots of ideas of exercises you can do on our youtube channel.
Remember: fitness is for life, and being strong is part of this.