Everyone knows aerobic activity is good for you. But if your aerobic workouts are not balanced with muscle-strengthening activities, you are missing out on a special component of overall health and fitness.
Benefits of Strength Training:
- Increases bone strength
- Improves muscular fitness
- Helps to maintain muscle mass during weight loss
How Much Do I Need?
Physical activities to strengthen your muscles are recommended at least 2 days a week. Activities should work all the major muscle groups of your body—legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms. Muscle-strengthening activities should be done in addition to your aerobic activity. You can do activities that strengthen your muscles on the same or different days that you do aerobic activity—whatever works best for you.
Examples of Muscle-Strengthening Activities
There are many ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether it's outside, inside your home or at a gym. Examples include: lifting weights, working with resistance bands, doing exercises that use your body weight for resistance (i.e., push-ups, sit-ups), heavy gardening (i.e., digging, shoveling), and some types of yoga.
Be sure to consult with your physician before starting a strength training program, especially if you have medical conditions, injuries or illnesses. If you have never done strength training, start slowly. Warm up with 5 to 10 minutes of stretching or aerobic activity.
No specific amount of time is recommended for muscle strengthening, but muscle-strengthening exercises should be performed to the point at which it would be difficult to do another repetition. When resistance training is used to enhance muscle strength, one set of 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise is effective, although 2 or 3 sets may be more effective. Improvements in muscle strength and endurance are progressive over time. Increases in the amount of weight or the days a week of exercising will result in stronger muscles.
Strength training continues to be a great way to round out your workout if you are already doing aerobic activity. It will help you improve tone, build strength, preserve muscle and feel good about yourself.
Additional Strength Training Resources:
How much physical activity do adults need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Strength training: Get stronger, leaner, healthier, Mayo Clinic
This newsletter has been peer-reviewed.