0800 040 7526
There are lots of benefits to resistance training; today I’ll have a brief look at why it is just as essential a part of any exercise regime as cardiovascular work (and flexibility!). Lots of people think that the most important part of getting fit (especially if there’s some weight loss needed) is cardio work, running/cycling/swimming type activities), but as any personal trainer worth his/her salt will tell you resistance (or strength/weight training as it is often called) is really really important. If asked to choose between only being able to do resistance or cardio would be a very difficult choice.
So why is it so good for us?
From a weight loss point of view, resistance training is like putting a bigger engine in a car – it will use more petrol. So in your case more lean muscle=more food needed. The higher your muscle mass is, the more energy these muscles use all day every day, even at rest. If you sat a skinny person on the sofa next to a beefy person with more muscle, for a whole day, the beefy person would need more fuel (or food) to stay alive than the skinny one. His muscles (like the ticking over engine in a car) are always on standby, ready to pounce (using fuel), being repaired and maintained (using fuel) growing new fibres (using fuel). This increased energy usage is scientifically known as an increase in your metabolic rate. The beauty of having more lean muscle is that it makes you burn more calories all the time, not just when you are exercising – i.e. even when you are at rest/sleeping/watching football or America’s Next Top Model etc. So while CV training is making you fit and burning lots of calories (even for a period after you’ve finished – afterburn), and you are eating a healthy calorie controlled diet (much easier with a Diets Don’t Work personal trainer), your new lean muscle mass is ticking over nicely to burn even more calories. In short:
CV+ resistance = increased muscle mass = a thinner much more toned you!
Please note, ladies, don’t be scared off by all this talk of increased lean muscle mass, it dosen’t mean you will end up looking like the Terminator. Your lack of testosterone means that to look like a Russian weight lifter we would have to train with heavy weights to failure for quite some time and feed you a diet of fillet steak and eggs. What we are talking about here is that hot and sexy toned firm look.
On top of making you use more calories, weight training will also stop you getting fat as you get older – our muscle mass peaks in our early 20’s then starts the long slow decline as we age with between 300-500 grams per year being lost for the rest of our lives. This slow stealthy muscle meltdown largely goes unnoticed as body fat can accumulate, padding the area where muscle tissue is being lost, but as we’ve seen in the previous paragraph a decrease in muscle mass = a decrease in your metabolic rate. So even if you carry on being good and eating the same things, you will still put on a pound of fat a year as you go from 30 to 40!! This natural decrease in lean muscle and its results is called Sarcopenia and can have a devastating effect on the last 10-20 years of a person’s life, taking away their health, mobility and independence. It will become a familiar name in the coming years as our inactive and sedentary lives become more common.
Strength training will also:
Strengthen the immune system: The necessary fuel source used by many cells of the immune system is the amino acid glutamine and the muscles are the primary site where this is stored. The more muscle you have the more plentiful the glutamine supply, the better the immune system works. Muscle is also where the body stores protein. Protein is essential to produce new antibodies and white blood cells to fight off infections or find and destroy cancer cells. The body uses protein at a much faster rate when fighting sickness and muscle tissue is where a reserve of extra protein is kept to draw on when needed.
A proper exercise program that includes at least 60% strength training exercise and the rest vigorous cardio exercise that raises the heart rate also serves to speed the circulation of antibodies and killer cells through the body and can raise white blood cell counts by anywhere from 50% – 300% after an exercise session.
As many people get sick when they are stressed or depressed, exercise helps reduce stress hormones and releases good hormones. Along with providing an outlet for the nervous energy produced by stress, exercise will increase the robustness of the immune system itself and lessen susceptibility to disease. So forget the notion that muscles are just for looks, they are essential for the healthy functioning of the immune system and the ability to withstand disease. This will reduce your risk of being the victim of some dreadful life threatening disease and might well save your life. The only way to keep those precious muscles strong and healthy throughout your life is with strength training exercise.
Increase the stability and strength of your joints by making your connective tissue and muscles stronger
Increase your bone density and delay/stop the onset of osteoporosis
Increase functional strength (so hauling shopping/children/heavy bags of designer shoes will be easier)
Improve posture-keep those rounded shoulders back, especially with a programme made specially for you
Improve co-ordination (so you will bump into things less)
Increase range of movement at the joints.
So go for it! You don’t have to bust a gut to get more muscle tone, a simple resistance programme 2-3 times a week for 20 minutes will set you on the right track. Simple exercises are also often the best, push ups, squats and the plank to name a few. Have a look on our Knowledge page to see more.