Why do I need strength training?

Some of us are starting the semester, if not this week, soon. The good news, at least for me, is that I’m getting back into a routine. The bad news is that all those stressors that I left behind during break are back.

Usually, I can “burn off the crazy” with cardio. But, I admit, I’m less than strict with strength training. Since it doesn’t raise heart rate, it feels like it isn’t as effective. So why, as an academic, should I care about strength training?

Well, let’s start first with mental health effects of strength training. In a systematic review by O’Connor, Herring, and Caravalho (2010) found that there is good evidence that strength/resistance training can help increase our mental as well as physical well-being. Specifically, the authors found that strength training can:

  • decrease anxiety
  • reduce chronic pain symptoms in people with low back pain, osteoarthritis, or fibromyalgia
  • increase cognition
  • decrease depression
  • reduce chronic fatigue
  • increase sleep quality

OK, I’m convinced. There is also some evidence that strength training can help balance and decrease falls in older individuals. It is never too late to start strength training.

I suppose that at this point it is important to define what I mean by strength training. According to this article by ACE, there are several types of strength. I’ll talk about a few. Agile strength is the ability to twist, bend, and lift. Endurance and Explosive strength are the marathon and sprint of strength. How can strength be built?

Weights and kettlebells probably come to mind, but other forms of strength training include carrying awkward objects like sandbags, cable machines, bands and tubes, and bodyweight exercises. The most important thing is that there are variety of exercises that work the entire body.

So, how often should I strength train? According to my studies with ACE, it is best to strength train each muscle group twice a week. That can be broken into specific body parts (don’t miss leg day!) or a full-body workout. Some strength workouts are combined with cardio, like Body Pump. Some yoga styles and postures may be considered strength training, too. If you’re looking for more specific exercises, it might be best to consult a certified trainer. But if you want to get a head start, ACE provides and exercise library that might be of use to you.

Here is a beginner strength workout to get you started.

If you have any tips, please leave a comment below. Here’s to a strong Spring 2019 semester!

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