Let’s talk about strength training
My favourite line from mothers, whether old or young, used to be, “I’ve never lifted weights”. It was a common opening remark to the somewhat uncertain discourse around whether or not they should embark on a course that didn’t involve their more familiar turf of yoga or pilates. Of course, my response was always the same, “how do you define 8kg-18kg of moving body mass being hefted in and out of cars, shopping carts, through airports, on hikes not to mention putting a child or children to bed, not once, but every night?”
Strength training, otherwise known as resistance training, is simply a form of exercise that increases your muscle strength by making your muscles work against a weight or a force. This force can indeed be your child (not recommended directly for fitness purposes), your own body weight, or resistance bands as in yoga, Pilates and TRX or my favourite - the once dreaded iron or metal that Arnold promoted as “Pumping Iron” which has since been transformed into the latest trend adorning all our homes, usually in brightly coloured neoprene. Of course, there are now so many flex (pun intended!) videos of people pumping iron in the gym on Facebook TikTok and Instagram.
In short, we have all done some form of strength training over the course of our lifetimes, the purpose of which is to help ensure that each muscle in your body is activated and working as it should, ideally as close as possible to how each muscle worked when you were in your teens or early 20s, whatever your current age or background.
So in short here are seven reasons to strength train, starting with the obvious:
1. Strength. Most recently a client in her mid-50s proudly described jumping the garden fence to catch her runaway dog, a boxer with a slightly independent streak. In short, strength training means having a body primed, regardless of your age, for everyday living, for anything you need, including runaway pets.
Muscles work synergistically, for example your hamstring on the back of your leg will give you the strength to spring out of a chair while the glutes (bum) and lower abs should be jumping in to help. Any of the above not quite working in synch can cause your knees or your lower back to start giving you grief. Clearly my client’s hamstrings, glutes and abdominals were active. These muscles comprise a group of approximately 11 muscles, while our body has another 640!
Even, balanced strength throughout your entire body is essential to live, keep up with your children, play and enjoy any sport, jump up and dance, have the power and stamina to power through your day – any day.
2, Counteracts the effect of aging. Lest we forget, from the age of 30 we lose ½lb of muscle every year. In fact, sarcopenia, or muscle loss, is what aging is. We lose our lean tissue from our skin, organs (including heart and brain), skeletal muscle effecting posture and joints, even our bones are affected. Getting out of a chair can start to feel like work, we get out of breath quicker than we should, while our hormones are affected as our organs are now shrinking too. Strength training in particular weight training, is simply one of the most effective ways to recover lost lean body mass, lean body mass that includes the muscle on your leg as well as your organs including even your skin.
3. Muscle health is Cardio health Make no mistake, intelligent strength training is cardio. With real weight training, your heart works harder, your circulation increases, your O2 uptake increases. You get fitter. Real resistance training also causes a release of hormones, including growth hormone, which causes your body to “soak up protein” - in other words you build muscle as just mentioned in point 2, and of course, your heart is a muscle too.
4. Great posture & healthy joints. As mentioned, as we age we lose muscle - a lot of muscle. This muscle was holding our bones and body, in its entirety, in place. Losing it can lead to numerous challenges including excess pressure on our joints, neck and spine - our heads are pretty heavy! Strength training, can ensure your back and entire core stay strong, holding you upright, supporting your neck and shoulders, as well as taking pressure away from your hips and knees.
5. Increased happiness and decreased anxiety. We all know training increases endorphins, those smart little neuro-transmitters and hormones that impact (and can even decide) our mood and drive. Research is showing that adults who lift weights are less likely to develop depression than those who never lift. Adults who lift weights also have lower levels of anxiety as weight training is particularly effective in supporting serotonin and dopamine production, the hormones that not only improve mood making you feel happy, but also reduce feelings of pain and anxiety.
6. Increased intelligence & brain protection. Once upon a time, it was either brains or brawn. Now science is questioning whether developing and having the “brawn” actually changes and improves your brain. In research on animals, weight training appears to promote the creation of new neurons in the memory centres of the brain thus improving their ability to think and problem solve. Equally some research suggests that six months of strength training (lifting weights) can help protect brain areas especially vulnerable to Alzheimer's disease, for up to one year later.
7. Reduced insulin and a higher metabolism aka lose fat and keep it off! Intense weight training had been shown to reduce insulin - good news for anyone looking to reduce belly fat, as all weight around the middle is actually due to your body releasing too much. Equally your muscle tissue itself burns calories, each lb of muscle burning 50-100cal each and every per day, even when you’re sleeping. If, as the stats suggest, between the age of 30 to the age of 50, we lose up to 10lbs of lean tissue or muscle, this implies that we would need to reduce our calorific intake by a whopping 500 - 1000 calories every day, just to stay in the same shape. Conversely simply gain just 5 pounds of muscle and you will burn 250-500 extra calories every day, even when doing nothing but sitting down with your feet up, watching your current favourite on Netflix!
In short, strength training, and particularly weight training, seems to be one of the few and simplest ways to help protect you, your body and your brain into the future. Not only helping you be strong, lose fat and get into shape, but also in supporting you to regenerate your entire body so you stay young too, not only physically but possibly mentally. And even better – there’s no cost involved, no medication to take, and no side effects (apart from the good ones) to be had.
Zana Morris, Founder