Aerobic exercises strengthen your heart and lungs; resistance training strengthens all your other muscles
Bodybuilders aren’t the only ones who should pump iron.
Working out with weights, bands or machines—also known as resistance or strength training—helps your body’s most important systems work at their peak. Strength training also may protect you from the side effects of some cancers.
Why is strength training so crucial? It offers big benefits. Here’s why you should add it in your workout regimen:
- Strength training aids in weight loss. People associate aerobic exercise with weight loss, but strength training helps you shed pounds, too—with the added benefit of building healthy, lean muscles.
- It gives your metabolism a boost, helping your body turn food into energy.
- It builds bone density. Bones become frail as we age. Strength training can help us avoid the bone-wasting effects of aging.
- It helps improve and maintain physical function. We lose muscle mass as we age, which makes it difficult to perform daily activities, such as carrying loaded laundry baskets and climbing stairs. Strength training can help maintain these abilities.
- It helps cancer survivors cope with some of the energy-draining side effects of treatment.
Customize your strength-training plan and start slowly. Whether you’ve spent years in the weight room or you’re a beginner, shoot for two or three strength-training sessions a week (in addition to moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise). During each session, do a series of 10 exercises that target all your muscle groups. And, no, ladies—strength-training won’t make you bulk up. Talk to a personal trainer about what makes a good training routine. These suggestions can help if you’re just starting:
- Start with light resistance. Complete one set of 10 to 12 repetitions of each exercise. If you can’t do at least 10 reps, you’re using too much weight. Take a 30-second to one-minute break before moving on to a new exercise.
- Try to do two exercise sessions at least 48 hours apart the first week. In week two, add a second set of repetitions.
- In your third or fourth week, add a third set of reps. It’s OK to break up your exercises over a couple of sessions: Focus on your lower body one day, then the next day do back and arm exercises.
To get the most out of strength training, make sure to rest your muscles. Why? You’re breaking down muscle fiber, which needs time to build up again. Work other muscles or do aerobic exercise during the rest period. Don’t overwork tired muscles. And use proper exercise form. Steady, controlled motion is more important than lifting a lot of weight. If have poor form, you’re more likely to get injured.
As with any exercise regimen, talk to your doctor before getting started if you have existing health problems, especially if you are overweight, have heart trouble or have old injuries.