When it comes to exercises for a healthier lifestyle, we often think about running, walking or cycling – the more cardio-orientated exercises. However, research has found that strength training is just as important as cardio.
While cardio requires little to no equipment, the perception is that weight training does. There are alternative forms of strength training that can be done at home using bodyweight, resistance bands and household weights. If you are looking to make a long-term investment, you can buy home gym equipment or even sign up for a gym contract. The decision is yours but the most important thing is that you’re putting yourself out there and becoming a healthier and fitter you.
The facts about strength training
It is a fact that strength exercises are effective at increasing muscle mass, bone mineral density and, of course, strength. It has also been found that muscle-strengthening exercises can assist our body in processing sugar and fat in our bloodstream. It can also improve overall fitness, which makes climbing stairs and walking uphill a lot easier. Consistent exercise has also been found to enhance your mood and reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Further medical doctors have states that strength training can also reduce the risk of developing obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and even early death. This has been analysed and shown to be true regardless of whether cardio exercise is being done as well as the individual’s personal factors such as age, sex, level of education, body mass index (BMI), mental health and cardiovascular factors.
When compared to cardio, strength training has been proven to be more beneficial in reducing the symptoms of age-related diseases, for example, muscle wasting, cognitive impairment and overall physical function.
The reality is that we should be doing strength training
Only 10-30% of the adult population meets the minimum requirement of strength training at least two days a week. The reason for this differs vastly, but the consensus is that it’s likely due to the decades worth of research backing cardio exercises as the chosen form of physical activity, while weight training is perceived to be more bulky and difficult to do. While this perception has changed, it will take a while before strength training and cardio training are seen to be equally as effective in promoting a healthy lifestyle.
The basics of strength training
To start your strength training journey, home workouts are the easiest way to get to know your body, its limits, as well as work on your confidence while exercising. Bodyweight exercises are a great place to start and there’s a lot of online classes, videos and apps that can be used. It’s important to work on your form before pushing yourself, as improper form can result in serious injury.
Body-weight exercises can absolutely help you to get fit without a gym. All that’s needed is a little space. Better yet, bodyweight workouts can double as both cardio as well as strength training. They can keep your heart rate up and challenge your muscular system, delivering an all-in-one workout that burns a ton of calories. As body-weight exercises activate multiple muscle groups at once, you build more muscle and burn more calories, making weight loss easier.
As well as being wildly convenient, body-weight movements are simple to modify and progress so that you are able to continue to build muscle and strength — and lose weight — as you get fitter. For example, once you master push-ups from your knees, you can move onto regular push-ups and, ultimately, more tricky variations. In other words, although body-weight exercises are very beginner-friendly, they can become more advanced, just as you do.
Doing half an hour to three quarters of an hour of strength training,2 to 3 times, a week is a brilliant way of building lean muscle mass, burning calories as well as boosting your metabolism. This, in turn, can assist you with burning body fat and make losing weight easier.
We need to shift our mindsets to accommodate a more holistic approach to exercising. Of course, best results are achieved by combining cardio and strength training, but there’s no harm in focusing on just one. Begin slowly and do what you are comfortable with. You can work your way up to a more strenuous programme as you become stronger and more confident.
Remember to consult with an exercise specialist should you need any help with planning your fitness routine.