When you’re looking to build muscles, strength training is the first thing on the list. When you’re looking for a six pack or bigger arms, you’ll go straight to the weights. But even if you’re not looking to bulk up, strength training can still massively benefit your health.
Many people avoid strength training because they don’t want the bodybuilder look. However, if the only exercise you do is aerobic, you might be missing out on huge health improvements.
1. Reduces belly fat
In 2014, a study published found that strength training was far more effective at reducing and preventing abdominal fat than aerobic exercise. Strength training not only burns your calories, but it also increases the amount of lean muscles, which then stimulates your metabolism. This will help to prevent increase in belly fat. Muscle mass will also help your body burn more calories, in your basal metabolic rate.
2. Improves your cardiovascular health
Another benefit related to abdominal fat is an improvement to your cardiovascular health. Abdominal, or visceral, fat sits around the vital organs. So by reducing the levels of visceral fat, you can improve the health of your heart. Additionally, a study published in 2013 showed that regular strength training can improve cholesterol levels in young men.
3. Controls your blood sugar levels
If you suffer from type 2 diabetes, strength training is something you should definitely incorporate into your regime. As well as building muscles, strength training also improves muscle ability to take in glucose. Muscle cells contain transporters that collect glucose from the blood and deliver it to the muscles. Strength training improves the ability of these transporters and allows them to collect higher levels of glucose, decreasing the blood sugar levels.
4. Reduces risk of cancer
Visceral fat can not only affect your heart health, but can also increase the development of cancer. Visceral fat has been shown to produce high levels of a protein called FGF2, which can trigger cancer. Additionally, muscle wasting can be complication in cancer treatment, and can be associated with chemotherapy toxicity, tumour progression and low survival rates.
5. Lower risk of injury
A strong muscle base is vital for all movement and to help prevent injury. Weak muscles can put stress on connecting tendons, resulting in tendonitis. Strength training also increases collagen fibrils in tendons to increase their strength and to help prevent injuries.
6. Improves mental health
Like most exercise, strength training has been shown to improve the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Uniquely, strength training helps to increase mental resilience, through overcoming obstacles in a controlled environment.
7. Improves your flexibility
If flexibility is something you're working on, you can incorporate strength training to help you achieve your goals. A specific type of exercise called eccentric exercise will provide the biggest improvements in flexibility - up to double what static stretching can do! These exercises are any that will focus on lengthening the muscles, instead of shortening. For example, the movement you make when you are lowering during a squat. Flexibility is important to give you a full range of motion. This will improve your fitness and quality of life, and you can keep on top of it with strength training.
8. Protects bone health and muscle mass
As we age, we lose our muscle mass. In fact, as early as age 30, we start to lose up to 5% of lean muscle mass per year. However, if you incorporate strength training into your schedule, you can combat this loss. Just 30 minutes twice a week of strength, high intensity, resistance or impact training can help to improve performance, and increase lean muscle mass and bone health. This muscle mass and bone health is vital for our health and ease of life as we age. Any weight bearing exercise will strengthen your bones, by stimulating your cells to produce structural proteins. Squats and lunges in particular will help with increasing bone mineral density.
9. Helps chronic disease
Many studies have shown that strength training can help people with certain chronic diseases. In fact, strength training has been shown to be as effective as medication in people suffering from the pain associated with arthritis.
10. Increases brain power
While strength training can improve anyone's brain power, the effects are shown the strongest in adults suffering from cognitive decline. A 2016 study showed that men and women who were aged fifty five to eighty six and also had mild cognitive impairment significantly improved when training twice weekly over six months.
This could be due to the way strength training increases blood, oxygen and nutrient flow to the brain.
If you want to incorporate more strength training into your regime, this weeks classes are focused on building up power and strength through yoga. While the flexibility of yoga sometimes earns more attention, the power and strength of this practice is what makes it truly special. Without strength, yoga poses are missing an important ingredient. Yoga makes you more toned, strong, and powerful. The metaphor of this powerful practice, is that if you find inner strength and power on your mat, you can tap into your strength and power off your mat and into your day to day life as well. Enjoy this week's 4 classes that emphasize strength in the practice.
By Amy Cavill
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