Listen up. Especially you cardio kids. There’s something you’re probably overlooking—strength training. Now, before you say, “Alex, I’m just a runner and can’t afford to bulk up before my next marathon,” let me tell you that’s pure malarkey. Strength training is absolutely necessary to excel in any athletic endeavor. And it’s excellent for your health.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you need to become a roid-raged meathead. But a little strength training goes a long way. Turn on your TV right now and look at any player on any World Cup team. Even though these guys play a game relegated mostly to the legs, you’ll notice they have quite a bit of muscular definition all over. Why would athletes so focused on footwork need such power anywhere but their feet? To look good for the highlight reels? Perhaps. But more importantly, they, like most other athletes, understand the vast health benefits of strength training. And so should you.
For instance, did you know a little dumbbell action can radically improve your physical and mental health? In fact, muscle is the largest metabolically active organ in your body, and so by strengthening your muscles, you also strengthen your brain and overall cardiovascular function. To be more specific, strength training can help you:
MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT
Strength training has been shown to increase one’s metabolic rate by up to 15%. So for anyone fearing becoming a hulk-like monster, this actually proves you can stay lean and fit. It’s also important to note that by middle age, you lose 1% of muscle mass each year. On top of that, women will lose bone density as well. But strength training helps reduce these negative effects, as it helps increase bone density and build skeletal muscle.
KEEP YOUR HEART HEALTHY
Quite simply, strength training allows your heart to pump blood more vigorously. This helps make your heart stronger and healthier. That’s why the American Heart Association recommends we all strength train to reduce the risk of heart disease.
REDUCE THE RISK OF DIABETES
Strength training helps control glucose levels. It’s been shown to boost proteins that can take glucose out of the blood and transport it into skeletal muscle, where it belongs. This also means your muscles gain more energy. And better yet, this helps reduce the risk of diabetes, kidney damage, and loss of eyesight.
IMPROVE COGNITIVE FUNCTION
This means your brain will work better. Strength training has been linked with protein boosts for brain growth. As a result, studies find that women between the ages of 65 and 75 who strength train improve their cognitive performance. In addition, strength training can reduce depression. While the science behind this is still a bit murky, strength training has been shown to produce a positive biochemical change in the brain that is similar to anti-depressant medication. Moreover, you’ll just feel better about yourself when you’re stronger.
LESSEN PAINFUL MOMENTS
A Tufts University study states that strength training can reduce arthritis pain by 43%. In addition, strength training can help you improve balance and limit falls. While you might not be tipping over sporadically right now, a New Zealand study finds this is critical data for you as you get older. Fortunately, the study found a 40% reduction in falls in women over 80. Of course, to capitalize on these benefits, you need to know proper technique. So before you run into the gym and start hurling heavy objects over your head, I encourage you to educate yourself on how to perform different strength-training routines. Certified trainers and coaches are your best resource to help you get the most of your workouts.