The Power of Strength Training and Why It’s Essential for Your Health

The Power of Strength Training and Why It’s Essential for Your Health

by Lara Heimann, PT and Founder of LYT

In a world filled with fitness trends and workout fads, one cornerstone remains true: strength training. Beyond the pursuit of beautiful muscles, strength training offers many benefits that go far beyond aesthetics. From improving overall health to enhancing daily functionality, strength training is an essential ingredient for daily life and longevity. Strength training (or resistance training) is a type of exercise that causes your muscles to resist an external force; this training intentionally loads the muscles and bones and can be performed using your own body weight, and/or outside weight via dumbbells, kettlebells, weight racks, or resistance bands. Strength training is truly having its day in the media spotlight and so to get you on board, let’s look at all the reasons that we should be doing it. 

Strength training increases muscle mass, which in turn boosts your metabolism. Unlike cardiovascular exercise, which primarily burns calories during the activity, strength training leads to an “afterburn effect” where your body continues to burn calories even after the workout is over. This impact can help you maintain a healthy body weight to move more efficiently and joyfully in all decades of life. We know how amazing a LYT online class makes us feel- during and after- both physically and mentally. Exercise has long been associated with improved mental well-being, and strength training is no exception. The release of endorphins during exercise helps alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression, leaving you feeling happier and more energized.

Strength training also improves muscular strength and endurance. This endurance not only makes daily tasks easier but also enhances athletic performance and reduces the risk of injury during physical activity. More than merely adding resistance to your routine, smart strength training involves movements that promote joint flexibility and mobility. By strengthening the muscles surrounding your joints, you can reduce the risk of injury and improve overall joint health. Specifically, working compound movement patterns (also known as functional movement like we incorporate into our LYT practice) such as squats and lunges enhance your ability to perform daily life activities with ease and independence. Maintaining strength and mobility is essential for maintaining independence as we age, and it is never too early to prime your body for lifelong musculoskeletal health. As we age, bone density naturally decreases, leading to an increased risk of fractures and osteoporosis. Strength training stimulates bone growth and helps maintain bone density, reducing the risk of fractures and promoting overall bone health. 

Strength training will help older adults stay active, reduce the risk of falls, and improve overall quality of life. Because strength training improves functional capacity by enhancing muscle strength, power, and endurance, we can improve performance of activities of daily living such as walking, climbing stairs, lifting objects, and maintaining balance. By improving functional ability, strength training enables older adults to remain independent and active for longer.

With aging, especially for women who are going through or are in menopause, strength training becomes increasingly important due to factors related to aging and hormonal changes. Age-related muscle loss, known as sarcopenia, begins as early as the fourth decade of life and accelerates after the age of 65. Strength training helps counteract this loss by stimulating muscle growth and preserving existing muscle mass. Osteoporosis, or loss of bone density, is common among older adults and increases the risk of fractures and falls. Strength training, particularly exercises that load the bones such as resistance training, can increase bone density and reduce the risk of fractures, thus promoting bone health and longevity. With falls in the elderly being a leading cause of injury and mortality, strength training proves its worth by improving balance, coordination, and proprioception, all essential ingredients for preventing falls. By strengthening muscles and improving stability, strength training reduces the risk of falls and associated injuries, thereby enhancing safety and quality of life. Additionally, strength training has been shown to be effective in managing and preventing chronic conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, by improving insulin sensitivity, lowering blood pressure, reducing inflammation, and promoting overall cardiovascular health.

So I hope you are convinced of the value of incorporating strength training into your wellness routine! In addition to my daily LYT practice which offers plenty of bodyweight strengthening moves, I have started adding extra weights in smaller doses or in lighter loads for longer time to build more endurance and prevent muscle loss. For more direct loadbearing on my spine, a common area for osteopenia, I began rucking about seven months ago. Rucking involves hiking/walking with a special pack that holds weighted plates. On both of our membership platform- LYT Daily and LYT Studio- we have strength classes. The “SET with weights” is one of my favorite classes to teach and practice, so join in on the fun with me or one of the other LYT teachers.  Incorporating strength training into your workout routine doesn’t have to be complicated. Whether you prefer lifting weights at the gym, bodyweight exercises from the convenience of your home, or resistance bands during your lunch break, the key is to find activities that you enjoy and can stick with consistently. 

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