A funny story gives a detailed description of a daily exercise routine of lifting and holding potato bags with both arms—beginning with a five-pound bag in each hand and slowly increasing the size of the potato bags to impressive 100-pound bags over a few weeks. It concludes with, “Now, start adding a potato to each bag!”
We don’t recommend that method, but making regular exercise a habit helps it become something you look forward to. This winter, check out the benefits of strength training to begin improving your overall physical strength, balance, and muscle tone. Strength training does not mean adding bulk unless that is your goal.
Strength training for the physically fit win-win!
Strength training increases bone density and muscle tone, manages weight and boosts metabolism, improves balance, and may assist with retaining your ability to think and learn—all while releasing mood-enhancing endorphins. As with any new physical activity, check with your doctor before beginning an exercise regimen.
There are different types of strength-training equipment (not counting potato bags!). Try one or more to see which method works best for you:
- Resistance tubing: Found at department stores, sports stores, or online, they are inexpensive and lightweight.
- Free weights: The most familiar are kettlebells, barbells, and dumbbells in varying weights, but you can even begin by using canned goods at home.
- Weight machines: Fitness centers have several types of resistance machines.
- No equipment needed: Your own body can be used as a “weight” with pushups, pullups, planks, wall sits, lunges, and squats.
Tips to Begin
Getting stronger is an important part of any overall fitness program. Because lean muscle decreases with age, your percentage of body fat will increase if you don’t work to replace it with lean muscle. How to get started:
- Join a group class that offers strength training for beginners.
- Schedule a session with a trainer at a fitness center or gym to learn how to begin strength training.
- Start by warming up your muscles with walking or similar activity for a few minutes.
- Spread out the aerobic activity (from moderate to vigorous) throughout the week.
- Use a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12 to 15 repetitions.
- Remember to breathe while working out and if an exercise is painful, stop and try again with a lower weight in a few days.
- You will notice an improvement in your strength with 20–30-minute sessions two or three days a week.
- Work out major muscles (legs, arms, back, etc.) twice a week—resting that particular muscle group a day in between.
- If you miss a few days or more, don’t give up—just begin again!
- Download the Guide to Physical Activity to help you get started.
It won’t be shorts and sleeveless shirt season for a few months (unless you’re fleeing our Minnesota winter for a warmer climate), so you have time to make yourself stronger and healthier by summer. Check out these simple tips to include good nutrition with your workout routine, too. You will thank yourself this summer when you have the endurance, muscle strength, and balance to undertake the wide variety of outdoor adventures Minnesota has to offer.