Many Americans are aware that about two hours and 30 minutes of exercise each week is necessary to stay healthy, and many of those individuals choose an aerobic activity, such as running or biking. However, recent research has shown that splitting your two hours and 30 minutes of exercise between varied activities—aerobic and muscle-strengthening—improves health the most.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, adults should aim to do muscle-strengthening activities, such as weightlifting, at least two times a week. Right now, only about 1 out of every 3 adults meets this goal.
A common misconception that many people have is that muscle-strengthening activities are more suited for men, which may stem from the misguided belief that women will “bulk up” too much from that type of exercise. However, women generally do not have the same level of anabolic hormones, which is what causes men to build larger muscles more easily.
In fact, muscle-strengthening activities are extremely important for women to engage in because they are more likely to develop problems with their bones and joints as they age. Increasing muscle strength—through weightlifting or other resistance training—can help prevent those problems.
Resistance training can also help with the following:
Increasing flexibility and balance, which decreases the number and severity of falls a person may experience as he or she ages
Maintaining proper weight, as people who have more muscle mass have a higher metabolism—sometimes up to 15 percent higher
Before beginning a new exercise routine or changing up an old one, speak to a medical professional to ensure you are healthy enough. And remember that commitment to a regular physical activity program is more important than the intensity of your workouts, so be sure to choose muscle-strengthening exercises you enjoy.
While building muscles is a common fitness goal, it’s not what every person needs or wants. Many people find that endurance training is more up their alley. Both strength and endurance training boast health benefits, but concentrating on one type may be more beneficial for you based on your needs or goals.
Endurance training, or aerobic exercise, is any physical activity that works large muscle groups and uses more oxygen than while resting. The goal of aerobic exercise is to increase cardiovascular endurance. Examples of aerobic exercise include aerobics, cycling, swimming, running, walking, hiking and fast-paced sports like tennis and soccer.
Strength training is designed to firm, strengthen and tone your muscles, as well as to improve balance, coordination and bone strength. Strength training is also called resistance training or anaerobic exercise, and includes body weight exercises (pushups, pull-ups, and crunches), free weights, weight machines and resistance tubing.
Depending on your fitness goals, you may want to focus more heavily on one type of training. However, a balance of the different styles is recommended for optimal health benefits and fitness level.