Strength training builds more than your body

Mara Casler
Special to The Citizen
Much like the change of seasons, our fitness routines and habits change throughout the year, too. Summertime lends itself to swimming, roller-skating and biking, while the colder months tend to be a time when gym-goers strength-train and do hot yoga classes. On a sunny warm day, the last thing I want to do is be indoors with artificial lighting and smelly sneakers. Who’s with me? I prefer to enjoy the benefits of exercising outdoors. Unfortunately, the summer is short-lived and eventually the thought of biking with gloves on isn’t so appealing. While keeping variety in your training program is important, focusing on strength training indoors during the colder months can have many benefits. Strength training, especially for women, is extremely important for maintaining muscle mass and keeping metabolism in check, and it helps to maintain a sense of community (more on that later).Strength training has come a long way at being more approachable and accessible when it comes to women’s fitness. Gone are the days of seeing the “cardio bunnies” slamming their Nikes onto the treadmills and soccer moms spending endless hours on the elliptical while watching episodes of “Real Housewives.” Now you are more likely to see women in the weight room doing barbell squats, overhead presses and bicep curls. The benefits of strength training for women specifically are undeniable, and there is new research coming out annually that supports women’s transition into the weight room. Strength training increases bone density, which is important for women, especially aging women, to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and other bone-related issues. Strength training also helps keep a healthy body composition, which can help reduce stubborn belly fat due to menopause or after pregnancy. We now know that hours of endless cardio is not the most efficient way of losing fat, but rather increasing muscle mass by strength training proves to be much more efficient. Muscle is an active tissue that continues to burn fat and calories at rest, long after the exercise is over. Cardio, on the other hand, while very beneficial in its own right, does not have the same post-exercise burn. In other words, when the treadmill stops, the benefits stop with it.

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Mara Casler

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Strength training also helps to reduce the pain felt from inflammatory conditions such as arthritis by building up protection and strength around the joints. Cardio and forms of high-intensity training can often provoke inflammation, which can be especially frustrating for those with arthritis and other forms of joint pain. Who wants to continue to exercise if the exercise hurts?Another benefit of strength training, especially for the aging adult, is the mental clarity it provides. Strength training has been shows to sharpen mental acuity and memory, as well as improve overall thinking.You don’t have to lift barbells overhead and throw medicine balls at the wall to strength-train. Strength training is incredibly versatile and can be done using minimal equipment, or even no equipment at all. Bands, barbells, dumbbells and just your own body weight can all be used as forms of resistance during a strength training session. Resistance bands are an inexpensive, compact and easy tool to keep in your car or travel with so you can add some resistance to your workout anywhere you go!Lastly, strength training — like any form of exercise, really — helps build community and strengthen relationships with the people you work out with. One of the most underrated benefits of finding a workout buddy is the sense of accountability you will feel to that person. It is much less likely that you will find yourself skipping gym sessions if you know your friend is there expecting you to show up. Carpool together with your gym friend if you can — that is even better! There’s nothing like a beeping horn to get you up and moving! There are communities of workout groups and fitness friends all over the very city that you live in. Chances are, they will be welcoming to you and happy to include you in the group. The community you create through strength training doesn’t even have to be in person, as there are many online and virtual communities as well. There are dozens of strength training apps with other members that you can join and find your flavor of fitness friend.Strength training helps to fortify our bodies, minds and relationships. Make the most out of your indoor workouts!

Mara Casler, of Aurelius, is a certified nutritionist through Cornell University, and holds a bachelor’s degree in fitness development and a master’s degree in recreation therapy from SUNY Cortland. She is a triathlete with a passion for weightlifting, hiking with her dog Oakley, and helping people become the healthiest version of themselves. 

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