Forget the image of the consummate bodybuilder, muscles flexing, veins bulging, while he lifts a giant barbell over his head. The truth is, strength training is so much more than a way to build muscle mass. It is a key component of overall health and fitness for everyone. Well-Being turned to the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Health & Wellness team for information about how strength training should be a part of “Living Healthy” for Mississippians of all ages.
Strong Your Whole Life Long
Following the adolescent and teen years, everyone begins to lose a fraction of muscle and bone strength each year. Strength training can help maintain and even increase bone and muscle mass. Strength training stresses muscles by using weights and/or resistance, which causes muscles to grow stronger. You can use machines, free weights, your own body weight, bands or other small pieces of equipment that can provide resistance to your muscles. You don’t have to spend hours each day on strength training. Most people see significant improvement with just two or three 20-30 minute sessions each week. This also meets the physical activity requirements supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Strength training is something you can do to enhance your level of health and fitness no matter your age, or stage of life.
“Studies support even more that it’s not about getting an hour of straight exercise to maintain or improve your health,” said Joanna Dixon, senior health and wellness program coordinator with Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi. “Rather, it’s about incorporating movement and physical activity throughout the day using your own body weight for resistance.”
Strength Training Options
There is something for everyone. According to the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi Health and Wellness team, strength training can be done most places with little or no equipment! Here are some options to consider when choosing a strength training regimen:
Body weight – Push-ups, pull-ups, lunges, crunches and squats are just a few of the exercises you can do with no equipment. This is ideal if you travel frequently, don’t belong to a fitness center or have little space to store equipment.
“Basic body weight exercises are tried and true,” Joanna says. “They have been around since the beginning of time as single, functional movements and will always remain a staple in the fitness industry because they work. Anyone can do them, and you don’t have to buy any equipment or pay for a gym membership.”
Resistance bands/tubing – These are available in a variety of resistance strengths and can be used alone or with other tools for a varied strength routine. These are portable, take up little space and allow you to work all major muscle groups.
Free weights – Barbells, dumbbells and kettle bells are some of the tools available for strength exercises. These are versatile, engage your core muscles more effectively and allow you to do many different exercises.
Weight machines – Most fitness centers have a wide variety of machines that assist you in performing strength exercises. These are ideal for beginners and can help reinforce correct form.
A well-rounded strength training regimen includes exercises for all major muscle groups, including legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms. Before you begin any exercise routine, be sure to get clearance from your physician especially if you have any health limitations.
Warm up with 5-10 minutes of brisk walking or other aerobic activity. Choose an exercise or resistance level heavy enough for your muscles to become fatigued after about 10-12 repetitions. Be sure to allow at least one full day of rest for each set of muscles. Do not work the same muscles two days in a row.
Special thanks to the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi Health & Wellness Team for their contributions to this article. For more information about living healthy, visit www.bcbsms.com.
What Strength Training Can Do For You