Updated: Feb 20, 2021
Why we should strength train now to get long-term benefits.
Barriers to strength training
There are lots of different reasons why people want to be stronger. The desire for 'strength' and 'masculinity' has commonly gone hand in hand, which has been the opposite for 'femininity'. Being feminine has been associated with being delicate (aka weak). I do think there has been a huge shift away from this belief in the past few years, but it's still very prevalent and affects how both genders approach fitness. There's also a tonne of other reasons why people may not choose to or be able to strength train — some harder to overcome than others: certain disabilities along with the lack of support facilities, not knowing what to do, not choosing or being able to prioritise the time, or even just finding it boring.
Short term and long term reward
We have a tendency to want results instantly, often to the detriment of longer term benefits. Mindlessly scrolling on social media for 20 mins might feel like what our hearts desire in that moment, but how much space are we leaving for the things that sustainably make us happy and healthy?
Make a deposit into your bank of health
Whilst many of us invest into pensions or savings, we're often not so good at investing in our mental and physical wellbeing — despite most of us deeming our health to be more important than our wealth.
There is significant evidence to show that regular strength training increases capability and independence in our older years, and the sooner we start the better. Incorporating strength training in our younger years could be the difference between being able or unable to walk up a flight of stairs when we're older, for example.
I came across a graph that blew my mind (see below). It shows the benefits of strength and balance training on the quality of our lives as we get older. It's such a HUGE difference.
Investing in our health now pays dividends in our futures.
References: 1. Skelton DA and Mavroedi, A. How do muscle and bone strengthening and balance activities (MBSBA) vary across the life course, and are there particular ages where MBSBA are most important?. Journal of Frailty, Sarcopenia and Falls. 2018;3(2):74- 84. 2. Public Health England. Muscle and bone strengthening and balance activities for general health benefits in adults and older adults: Summary of a rapid evidence review for the UK Chief Medical Officers' update of physical activity guidelines. London; 2018.
What we can do about it now
So, what can we do about it? According to government guidance, we should aim to take part in strength-based activities at least twice a week. The most effective activities are considered to be strength/ resistance training and aerobic circuit training. While not as effective, there are lots of other activities you can do to build strength, including many team sports and hiking — remember, doing something is always better than nothing!
If you're already in a good strength training routine then that's wonderful! If you're not, it's never too late to start. It might be trickier now with gyms shut, but there are loads of different ways you can begin. There are a lot of useful free resources on the internet (albeit, together with some not so helpful (mis)information). There are also great classes you can do online in the comfort of your own home or outside. For example, my strength-based classes are designed to maintain and build functional strength across our whole body, to help you on your way to feeling great now and in the future! And if you want that bit more support and guidance, there are personal trainers and coaches you can work with online or in parks for more bespoke training (hello!)
So don't wait around too long, and get strength training!