Focus on Fitness: Why strength train? |

Focus on Fitness: Why strength train?

Mary Beth Magalis Arce/For the Steamboat Today

— Strength training or resistance exercise is defined as improving muscular strength by gradually increasing the ability to resist force through the use of free weights, machines or the person’s own body weight.

Long considered an activity for body builders, we now know how beneficial resistance exercise is for both men and women at any fitness level and any age. It can be particularly important for people with health issues, such as arthritis, disease prevention or in rehabilitating post injury.

Aside from more muscle definition and tone, working with weights can benefit the body in many other ways including improved balance, posture and coordination. Strength training can reduce your risk of falling by as much as 40 percent, a crucial benefit as we age.

Men and women begin to lose approximately 1 percent of our bone and muscle strength every year after puberty. Bone density is especially vulnerable for women over 40.

According to Troy Tuttle, MS, an exercise physiologist at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston, one of the best ways to stop, prevent and even reverse bone and muscle loss is to add regular strength training into workouts.

Looking to lose some weight? Regular resistance training can boost one’s daily metabolism, in addition to the calories burned during the exercise itself. More calories are used to make and maintain muscle than fat, and in fact, strength training can boost your metabolism by a whopping 15 percent.

Beat the blues. Strength training has been shown to improve overall quality of life through better sleep, elevating endorphins and feeling better about yourself.

Studies have documented strength training can be as effective as medication in decreasing arthritis pain. It also improves glucose control in Type II diabetics and can be very effective in reducing the risk of bone fractures in post-menopausal women.

Strength training is not just bench presses, big machines or barbells. Pushups, lunges and box jumps are all examples of resistance exercises that provide the many benefits listed above.

Allow muscles time to recover by strength training on alternate days. Always take some time to warm up, cool down and stretch after a resistance program.

It is always prudent to seek guidance from a fitness professional to outline a safe and effective program and be sure to seek medical clearance before participating in any exercise regimen if you have any health issues.

Mary Beth Magalis Arce is a personal trainer at Old Town Hot Springs.

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