Think strength and resistance training is only for athletes or those who want to bulk up? Think again! Strength training can help everyone. Working it into your exercise routine can have a number of benefits outside of simply gaining muscle.
For starters, it’s a great way to burn calories and increase metabolism. When you increase your muscle mass from strength training, you boost your resting metabolism. This means your body will naturally burn more calories. “If you look at metabolic rates — the way we process food and turn it into energy in the body — you can boost that just by getting on a weight training program,” says Louis Ruland, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Anne Arundel Medical Center.
Strength training can also help you prevent injury. It builds strength in the muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. This allows them to absorb more impact and force without breaking or tearing. “If you’re a runner, and you do strength training to build up certain muscles around the knee, those muscles are critical for tracking of the patella,” Dr. Ruland says. “In doing that, you reduce common overuse injuries of the knee.”
To achieve this effect, you should participate in a training regimen that strengthens a wide number of muscle groups. Muscle imbalances are one of the most common causes of athletic injuries. That’s why it’s important to work out a variety of muscles, not just the “beach muscles” (to show off at the beach) such as your arms and legs, but more importantly, the trunk or “core muscles.”
Dr. Ruland also recommends weight training for people in their 70s and 80s. “The benefits enable that age group to more easily perform activities of daily living,” he says. “It can even increase overall bone density, which produces greater bone strength and can lower the incidence of fractures.”
You don’t need a gym membership; push-ups, sit-ups, planks, squats and single leg stance are just a few easy strength exercises that don’t require any equipment. “You can do a variety of simple exercises just using your body weight,” Dr. Ruland says. “In addition, resistance bands or dumbbells are relatively inexpensive, and it’s also possible to do resistance exercises with large books or other heavy household objects.”