Strength training is not optional.
We realize that for many people that we talk to about their health and fitness regimen, this is going to sound like a broken record – but given the ever-growing numbers who are not engaging in any form of progressive resistance training, clearly, this is a drum that needs to be continually beaten.
The reasons for avoiding weights are endless:
“I’m a runner, I don’t need to strength train – I get plenty of it running hills.”
“I don’t like going to the gym.”
“I just don’t have time.”
“I don’t enjoy strength training.”
These are just to name a few.
But rather than simply snapping off a terse (and likely ineffective) response to each of them, we’d rather look at the benefits that strength training provides.
First and foremost, it will improve your resiliency. To be clear, there’s no such thing as injury prevention – life being what life is, we are inevitably going to hurt ourselves in some way. However, what is within our ability is to reduce the chances of injury, the potential severity, and the recovery time when coming back – and strengthening all of our body’s supportive structures (muscles, ligaments, tendons) is the way to do that.
Secondly, it can help with performance in all sports and activities regardless of your level. In the example of the runner from above – no, running hills does not replace strength training. To begin with, the resiliency I just spoke about becomes that much more important in sport-performance – but furthermore, if you are not incorporating strength and power work into your “cross-training” schedule, then you have some significant deficits that are not being addressed in your actual sport (a great academic summary of this – if reading evidence-based articles is your jam – can be found here).
And lastly – most importantly – the quality of life as you age. The number of ways that strength training impacts us in the first half of our life pales in comparison to the latter part. One example is that as we age, our muscle mass can decrease by 30-50% by the time we reach 80 years (1) – but strength training can help slow this or even reverse it. Further, like any skill, practiced movement (which strength training is) can be retained – in other words, you can maintain your balance and coordination in day-to-day life. Finally, more and more research is coming out that strength training has a significant positive impact on your cognitive abilities – one small study by the University of Sydney demonstrated that 2-3 days per week of high-intensity, progressive resistance training “…significantly improved global cognitive function, with the maintenance of executive and global benefits over 18 months.” (2)
It’s never too late to get started, so regardless of where you’re at in life get out there and get yourself on a program. Stop seeing it as an “extra” chore, something that you have to “add” into your day – instead, see it for what it is: a long-term investment in your physical, mental and emotional health.
- Akima H, Kano Y, Enomoto Y, Ishizu M, Okada M, Oishi Y, Katsuta S, Kuno S. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001 Feb; 33(2):220-6.
- Fiatarone Singh MA, Gates N, Saigal N, Wilson GC, Meiklejohn J, Brodaty H, Wen W, Singh N, Baune BT, Suo C, Baker MK, Foroughi N, Wang Y, Sachdev PS, Valenzuela M. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2014 Dec;15(12):873-80. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2014.09.010. Epub 2014 Oct 23.