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4 Reasons to Add Strength Training to Your Workout Routine

Aug. 31, 2021 - Katie McCallum

Some types of exercise just come naturally. For instance, as soon as your feet hit the pavement, you know exactly what to do.

Other types of exercise, like strength training, can seem daunting. You might think of muscles and the heavy barbells and the weird weightlifting maneuvers it takes to get them.

So instead, you stick to cardio. Which is fine since, when it comes to getting your physical activity in for the week, exercise is exercise…right?

Well, not exactly.

"Any physical activity is better than none. But to reap the full health benefits of exercise, it's best if your workout routine includes a mix of exercise formats, including both cardio and strength training," says Lauren Murray, health fitness coordinator and personal trainer at Houston Methodist. "Most people fit cardio into their routine, but strength training is the type of exercise that's often left out."

Murray is here to share four convincing reasons to add strength training into your exercise routine, as well as help you get over your fear of the weights section at the gym.

1. Strength training can help prevent injury

Whether it's from overdoing it or just doing it awkwardly, physical activity always comes with risks. A key advantage of strength training is that it can help prevent exercise-related injuries, as well as the injuries that can happen during everyday life.

This is because strengthening the muscles that surround and support your joints can help correct any imbalance or weakness in the associated muscle groups.

"Some people think, 'I'm a runner, I don't need to lift weights,' but it's not that simple. Strength training can help build strong knee and hip joints, reducing the risk of common running-related injuries," Murray says.

2. Building muscle can boost your resting metabolism

Cardio is the cornerstone of many fat-burning weight loss plans, but strength training is also a powerful weight management tool.

"While cardio provides a greater calorie burn during the actual workout, I think what many people may not know is that strength training boosts your overall metabolism — meaning you burn more calories while at rest," explains Murray.

Strength training builds muscle and increases lean body mass. And, the more muscle and lean mass you have in your body, the more calories you burn throughout the day — even after your workout is over and your body is resting.

3. Lifting during a workout helps you lift outside of a workout

It probably goes without saying, but we'll say it anyways: The muscle you build from strength training translates into more muscle to do things you do every single day, like: carrying the groceries, managing your yard, cleaning your house and even keeping proper posture while you sit at your desk all day.

"The reality is that if you're not training your muscles, you lose them," says Murray. "The more muscle you lose, the weaker you become — not only making you more prone to injury, but making simple tasks like the ones above unnecessarily difficult."

Murray emphasizes that it's important to continue to strengthen your muscles, regardless of your age. And, because strength training stresses your bones (in a good way), it can increase bone density and help reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

4. Strength training isn't as intimidating as you may be expecting

Here's the thing — strength training doesn't necessarily have to mean "lifting weights."

"If you're intimidated by free weights, benches and barbells, try out your gym's weight machines. They might feel like they come with a steep learning curve, but these machines are a great way to build muscle without having to worry as much about form," Murray says.

If you don't have access to a gym or you're looking to scale down of the intimidation factor even more, start with body weight exercises.

"Your body weight is a great piece of equipment in itself," says Murray.

Body weight exercises can be as simple as calf raises or as complicated as ones that require watching a video or two. They also have the advantage of being a low-impact form of exercise — which is good for those with joint pain or returning from injury.

"Once you're comfortable with body weight exercises, you can slowly begin adding weights into the mix," says Murray.

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