Fitness training should never be an either/or proposition. We can’t pick either cardio or strength — we need to do both. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults include 150 minutes of cardio into their weekly activities PLUS muscle-strengthening activities at least two days each week.
While most people tend to spend more time doing cardio, it is important to give equal attention to weight training. Weight training does many things that cardio just can’t.
Here are a few of the advantages that regular strength training provides:
Reduced abdominal (visceral) fat — This is the fat that collects at your midsection and has been linked to a higher risk of heart attack, diabetes, cancer and other life-threatening conditions. Strength training increases lean muscle mass, an important tool for raising metabolism and burning calories more efficiently.
Fewer injuries — Stronger, toned muscles will give you a stronger base for any kind of physical activity, improving your coordination and balance. If muscles and tendons are too weak they can put stress on other muscles and lead to pain from tendonitis and falls.
Osteoporosis prevention — Putting light stress on your bones with your own weight or by lifting weights sends signals to your brain to produce added tissue and add to bone mass. Several simple exercises including foot stomps, bicep curls, squats and leg lifts are especially effective at this.
Higher insulin sensitivity — This is the opposite of insulin resistance, which is a major factor in the development of diabetes. Our muscles store glucose from our body as glycogen, which is released as fuel every time we use them. If we don’t have enough storage capacity for glycogen in our muscles, that’s when it tends to collect in our bloodstream and damage many areas of our body.
Healthier aging — Lean muscle mass naturally decreases as you age, with the average 70-year-old left with about 55% of what he or she started out with. Strength training significantly slows this process and gives people the sturdiness needed to maintain an independent lifestyle.