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BY: Sara Fleming
As an exercise and health nut, you know the drill. A complete workout means cardio AND strength training. But how do you convince these people:
"I just want to do cardio to lose weight."
"Oh no, I don't want to get too big."
"Go into the weight room? I'm not a bodybuilder."
When it comes to strength training, most people cringe and make excuses. The ridiculous reasons people refuse to add weights to their routine range from the fear of looking too bulky to being afraid of injury.
But the truth is that strength training combined with cardiovascular exercise is the foundation of health-based fitness.
If you, your clients, your friends and family want to live a long, healthy life with minimal pain and avoiding injuries, you need the muscle mass and stength that comes from strength training.
I'm about to give you the real reasons why everyone should be in the weight room, so you can convince those who are afraid to lift.
A major reason, especially for women, to avoid the weight room is the fear of looking like the Incredible Hulk. Here's the truth about bodybuilding: It takes a lot of work and a very special, special diet to look bulky and muscular.
The typical person going into the weight room a few times a week is in no danger of getting too big. The fact is that if you do get a little bigger after weight training, your muscles probably weren't big enough in the first place.
As we get older, we lose muscle mass. This is called sarcopenia and it can lead to low bone density, injuries, and even early death. Instead of worrying about gaining too much muscle, we should all be worried about losing our muscle and getting weaker.
So, if you don't have enough strength, what does that mean for your daily life? In order to move correctly, while doing anything, you need a strong foundation. You need your muscles to be strong.
Muscle mass and full body strength gives you good posture, the ability to move correctly, consistently, and the stability that prevents injuries.
Postural strength is the ability to maintain good posture over time. You can think of postural strength as core strength, but it's really much more than that. It is the ability to actively support the spine in concert with the shoulder and hip joints.
Without this strength, you slouch.
When you slouch, your back hurts, your neck hurts.
If you sit at a desk for most of the day and slouch, you don't have enough postural strength.
As a trainer I hear a lot of reasons that people want to get in better shape. Three cases really stick out. None of these women listed below thought strength training was the answer to their problems:
A middle-aged tennis player whose chronic hip pain had sidelined her from the court
An overweight stay-at-home mom who struggled to do the most basic household chores
An older client who thought she would have to move out of her house because she couldn't keep up with the maintenance
Strength training turned these women's lives around.
The tennis player got back on the court, pain-free, the stay-at-home mom found the strength to lift things and do yard work, and the older client developed enough strength to maintain her home.
You've heard of osteoporosis right? Losing bone density with age does not have to be inevitable, and gaining some of it back is possible...with strength training.
In one study, women in their 60s took part in a weight-lifting regimen and not only did it safely, but also significantly improved their bone mineral densities.
In a number of studies, weight training has been shown to reduce both back pain and the risk of vertebral fractures as well as restore normal muscle activation in the muscles around the spine. Strong muscles reduce chronic pain that might otherwise be treated with invasive and risky surgeries.
Strength training can even reverse or reduce the severity of chronic health conditions like heart disease and type II diabetes.
If you're a runner, cyclist, or training for a triathlon, ignore strength training at your peril.
Athletes that include regular strength training reduce their risk for injury and improve their performance in endurance challenges.
Muscle strength gives you the ability to move correctly to avoid injury, including the kind of chronic pain and damage to joints that sidelines athletes for weeks or months.
The message is pretty clear: strength training is for everyone.
Gaining muscle mass gives you several benefits:
Greater bone density
Better quality of life
Reduction in symptoms of certain chronic illnesses
Better endurance performance
So what is the recommendation? Officially, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the recommendation is to do some kind of strength training at least twice a week (in addition to cardio).
Pretty vague right?
This is where a good trainer becomes important. For yourself or your family and friends who are bugging you about this, work with a trainer who can come up with a plan for strength and lifting that will meet your personal goals and that are a match for your age, ability, and any medical conditions.
The bottom line is that any strength training is better than none. So, now with no excuses left, what are you waiting for? Get in the weight room.
Chang SF, L. P. (2016). Systematic Literature Review and Meta-Analysis of the Association of Sarcopenia With Mortality. Worldviews Evid Based Nurs, Epub ahead of print. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26844538
Michael McLeod, L. B. (2015). Live strong and prosper: the importance of skeletal muscle strength for healthy aging. Biogerontology, Open Access. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10522-015-9631-7
Watson SL, W. B. (2015). Heavy resistance training is safe and improves bone, function, and stature in postmenopausal women with low to very low bone mass: novel early findings from the LIFTMOR trial. Osteoporos Int., 2889-94. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2624336
North American Spine Society. (2013, October 9-12). Exercise Examined as Alternative to Spine Surgery. Retrieved from NASS Daily News:https://nass-365.ascendeventmedia.com/uncategorized/exercise-examined-as-alternative-to-spine-surgery/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015, June 4). How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need? Retrieved:https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/