Pump it Up!

This is the final post in a series on stepping into a healthier fall. Turning life upside down may result in short-term and short-lived gains. However, baby steps may be just what you need to kick-start a healthier, happier lifestyle. “Pumping it up” is a great way to get started.

Remember Hanz and Franz from Saturday Night Live? They took the concept of pumping iron to a new and hilarious level. As we step into fall and winter and find ourselves gravitating towards hibernation mode, why not move indoors for some strength building exercises? As I mentioned in my post, “No More Excuses,” this tends to be my modus operandi when winter draws near.

Benefits of Strength Training

If you are concerned that you’ll gain weight by downgrading the amount of time you dedicate to cardio workouts, worry no more! As your muscle mass increases, so does your basal metabolic rate (BMR) or the energy used by your body at rest to maintain normal body functions. Thus, the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn, even when you’re sleeping or sitting around. Maintaining or possibly losing body weight is just one of the benefits you’ll glean from pumping iron. A few others include:

Look better! After the age of 30, your muscles begin to decrease in size and strength. If you strengthen your muscles, your physical appearance and performance will improve.

Reduce injury risk.

If you build muscle, you help protect your joints and make them less susceptible to injury. Strong muscles also keep you balanced so you’re less likely to fall.

Develop strong bones.

Strength training can increase bone density and reduce your chance for osteoporosis.

Manage chronic illness.

Strength training can reduce the signs and symptoms of chronic illnesses such as obesity, arthritis, back pain and depression.

Ways to Integrate Strength Training in Your Day

Even if you don’t have access to a gym, there are plenty of ways you can pump it up! A combination of each of these exercises is even better.

Body-Weight Exercises.

You can carry out these exercises in front of the TV, whether at home or travelling for work. Use your own body weight as resistance, doing pull-ups, sit-ups, push-ups, leg squats and more.

Machine-Weight Exercises.

Weight machines help you increase your strength while also encouraging good form. They limit the range of motion to the safe zone of a specified exercise you perform.

Free-Weight Exercises.

Free weights, like barbells and dumbbells, offer more flexibility than machines and allow you to engage muscle groups beyond the primary one being targeted.

Core Strengthening Exercises.

What better way to prepare for next year’s swim suit season than by developing a “six pack” during the winter? Core exercises are planks, side planks, Pilates “100,” V-sits, hip lifts, etc.

Notes of Caution

Whether you are beginning a strength-building program for the first time or are a more advanced weight lifter, be sure to carry out the exercises properly. Ask personnel at your local gym or hire a personal trainer to develop a safe program for you.

If you have a bad back like I do, you may even need a physical therapist to guide your movements. If you lift weights or even do push-ups and sit-ups the wrong way, you put yourself at risk of injury. Also, be sure to warm-up before and warm-down after doing strength building exercises. If these important steps are missed, you again increase risk of injury. Don’t forget to give yourself adequate recovery time, too. Bodies aren’t meant to “pump it up” every day. Happy lifting!

Melinda Hinson