The basis for physical WHealth should be your 10,000 steps on 5 days of every week. In addition, strength training confers both physical and psychological benefit.
Research over the past 15 years has clearly demonstrated that exercise that promotes muscle strength and mass has independent health benefits. In particular, studies have shown favorable shifts in body composition (more lean mass than fat mass), as well as improved blood sugar and blood pressure control. These three factors are fundamental problems in metabolic disease syndromes. Greater muscle strength has also been shown to correlate with lower cardio-metabolic risk and lower risk of premature death.
Several factors drive the health benefits of strength training. First, resistance training triggers the pro- and anti-inflammatory cascades that drive long term WHealth. Second, muscle has a higher metabolic rate than fat. Increased muscle mass therefor increases your overall metabolic rate, particularly if you lose fat during the same period. A higher metabolic rate in turn makes it easier to lose weight, and maintain a favorable caloric balance.
In addition to the metabolic benefits of strength training, you derive skeletal benefit. Resistance exercise stresses bone. This stimulates an increase in the rate of bone mineral deposition, strengthening bones and their supporting ligaments. Strong bones are resistant to fracture, and the enhanced soft tissue strength protects joints. Similarly, the neuromuscular upgrade improves balance and coordination, protecting you from injury. Remember, you want to stay healthy so that you can achieve your 10,000 steps, at all cost!
Finally, research shows that resistance training is associated with mental and emotional benefits. Regular strength training increases subjective perceptions of energy and decreases subjective perceptions of fatigue. Evidence is emerging for a role in the management of depression and anxiety too.
Strength training is a discipline filled with mystique and folk-law. You will find a large range of advice on the topic. Fads are common, and eager but unskilled advocates may put you at risk of injury. My strong recommendation is that you start your own program under guidance. It is best to work with somebody experienced, perhaps even certified, in strength training. You need a program that improves the strength, endurance and power of your muscles.
There are many ways to perform resistance training. It’s a good idea to try several for yourself, and variation will be equally good for your body and your mind. I favor exercises that use bodyweight, free weights and resistance bands because they minimize the risk of injury, and tend to use more natural joint movements than many other methods. It is important that your program is balanced – that you exercise both sides of your body, and opposing muscle groups equally. And my strong bias is to leave explosive strength training to elite athletes and power lifters. It is highly dangerous for everybody else! It is critical that you use the correct technique and form in performing resistance exercises. Again, the guidance of an experienced, qualified trainer will not only protect you from injury, but ensure that you get maximal benefit from each exercise.
Perhaps the most important muscle groups for you to strengthen are those that support your core. Your abdominal and back muscles provide vital strength and stabilization for your spine, which not only forms the basis of all locomotion and movement, but also protects your spinal cord and the important nerves that supply sensation and movement to the rest of your body. Fortunately, core training has received a lot of popular attention recently, and whether you participate in a 30-day plank challenge, or enjoy exercising while balanced on top of a giant fitness ball, there are a lot of fun ways to achieve this important objective.
If you can, ideally twice a week, I recommend that you add resistance training to your 10,000 step regimen for WHealth.