Strength Training Exercises: 6 Reasons to Add Them to Your Workout

Strength Training Exercises: 6 Reasons to Add Them to Your Workout

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Learn why — and how — you can improve your physical and mental health with strength training exercises.

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OCT. 28, 2022   4 MIN. READ

Regular exercise — approved by your healthcare provider — is a win. To get the most out of your movement routine, incorporating strength training exercises, also known as resistance exercise, is a must. Here are six of the best reasons to add some strength training to your routine for your physical and mental health.

1. Improve Longevity

Perhaps the most convincing argument for strength training: muscle mass and strength are key predictors of how long you'll live. Researchers think that muscle may reduce the risk of early death in part by improving the body's response to insulin (the hormone that regulates our blood sugar).

Muscle also serves as an important protein reserve that the body can use to help recover from illness and injury. Research uncovers how muscle can be overlooked when body mass index (BMI) is the only measure used to predict clinical outcomes. Because BMI is a ratio of weight and height and does not account for lean body mass and fat tissue, it should not be used as the sole measure of someone's health.

2. Fight Osteoporosis

Bone density and strength can naturally decline during the aging process, increasing the risk of fractures that can lead to disability and death. Fortunately, people who strength train — including older adults — can help minimize losses in bone density. Even after 65, many adults can increase their bone mineral density through strength training. This is because resistance exercise, especially standing resistance exercise and multi-joint movement, places healthy levels of stress on bones including the spine and hips. Over time, this promotes bone density and strength.

3. Maintain a Healthy Body Composition

Resistance exercise builds muscle, but it also reduces the risk of excess fat. Excess central body fat around the waistline such as visceral fat, which sits in and around the internal organs, has the greatest effect on cardiometabolic health. In one Harvard study of 10,500 adults, participants who substituted 20 minutes per day of weight training for other activities gained less abdominal fat over a 12-year span.

4. Strengthen Body Confidence

Regardless of how your body does or doesn't change with resistance exercise, you can expect to feel better. Studies show that by engaging in a regular strength training routine, people such as middle-aged and older women can improve their body image and self-esteem. After all, when you tackle new feats of strength, the empowerment is infectious in all areas of your life.

5. Enjoy Better Mental Health

As well as raising levels of feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain, resistance exercise has helped people, including young adults, to reduce anxiety symptoms. Whether or not anxiety or mild depressive symptoms are involved, strength training may help benefit your mental health and may boost your mood, too.

6. Keep the Brain Sharp

Resistance exercise affects the brain in many ways. Fortunately, for people who want their brains to run at top performance now or who want to reduce the risk and severity of cognitive decline in old age, strength training can help. In fact, when a group of elderly women with mild cognitive impairment performed resistance exercise training just twice a week for six months, they demonstrated improved memory and cognitive functioning.

How to Strength Train for Better Health

No matter your current exercise routine, performing strength exercises for all major muscle groups at least twice per week can help optimize your overall health. These exercises may include equipment such as dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, body weight or even items around the home such as canned goods or gallons of water.

To engage every major muscle group, consider hitting all the body's basic movement patterns each week, including squats, hip extensions, core and pushing and pulling exercises. There are plenty of ways to work each movement pattern and mixing things up can be a great way to add variety. For example, for squats, you might do bodyweight or weighted squats. For hip extension exercises, both glute bridges and deadlift variations are good options. When pushing, think shoulder presses and pushups; when pulling, think rows and pullups. Keep in mind that there's a difference between training for muscular endurance (lower intensity, more repetitions) and muscular strength (heavier/higher intensity with fewer reps).

As you're getting started, these workout sessions don't have to be long or hard. Get screened for fitness activity by a healthcare provider and go slowly. Start with movements that feel doable to you and allow yourself to build consistency and momentum over time. If unsure how to progress, ask a certified strength and conditioning specialist or an exercise physiologist. It's all about establishing a habit for your long-term health and happiness.

Post-Workout Snacks | Abbott Nutrition

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Your muscles need to recover after a hard workout, but what's the best way? Knowing what foods to eat and when to eat them can help you recover better and be ready for your next workout.

"There's a window of opportunity in the hour post-workout," explains Steve Hertzler, PhD, RD, nutrition scientist and dietitian with Abbott. "But if you wait too long to eat, this delays the refueling process in tired muscles and might impair your performance in the next workout or competition. This is especially true if there is a short time between competitions or if you are training more than once per day."

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5 Smart Snacking Tips to Curb Hunger | Abbott Nutrition

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Snacking is one of those habits that often gets a bad rap. But nibbling throughout the day can have some powerful health benefits.

"The right snacks ward off hunger, so you feel more in control and have steady energy while waiting for your next meal," explains Pamela Nisevich Bede, MS, RD, a registered dietitian at Abbott. "And it's important to choose snacks that curb cravings and keep you satisfied."

But just because snacking has some health benefits doesn't mean you should overdo it with candy and popcorn anytime you're watching TV. Try these five snacking tips to improve your eating habits between meals and choose snacks that work hard for you, so you're not working them off later. 

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