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Total Wellness through Strength Training

By Lori Dotson of Snap Fitness

Fatigued? Muscles ache? Feeling blue? The prescription may not be in a pill but in your local health club. Regular strength training has been shown to reduce the risk of back pain, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, insomnia and, yes, even depression.

Not to mention the fact that it makes you look and feel great! With one in three Americans now classified as obese, the U.S. is in a health care crisis. Obesity not only increases the risk of heart disease but has also been linked to many cancers. While doctors are quick to prescribe a fat loss pill, they should be quicker to prescribe a comprehensive exercise program that includes both strength training and aerobic exercises.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that all individuals, especially the elderly, engage in a regular program of strength training. Studies in the elderly have shown that improved strength reduces the risk of death from all causes, including heart disease. Furthermore, it provides the elderly with independence — that ability to carry out “activities of daily living” without assistance, improving the quality of life for many older Americans. Of course, the benefits of strength training are not limited to older adults. All Americans, especially those less likely to pick up a weight — like women — can see significant improvements in overall health through a regular training program.

Strength training increases your lean muscle mass, which increases your resting metabolic rate — the amount of calories you burn when you’re doing absolutely nothing — leading to greater weight loss than can be achieved through aerobic training alone. Wouldn’t it be nice to burn more calories all of the time and not just when you’re sweating it out in Zumba class? Plus strength training has been shown to improve cardiovascular health and increase bone density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis.

Denise Nannemann of Rio Rancho has been working with personal trainer Christiana Brown at Snap Fitness on Unser at McMahon for the past four months. She started with Christiana to lose weight but is also excited about her improved balance and strength. “Now I am able to do things around the house that I haven’t been able to do for years.” She is also sleeping better because she has less joint pain.

All exercise programs, including strength training, should incorporate the PROS — progression, regularity, overload, and specificity. Progression simply means that you need to gradually increase your weights and the complexity of your workouts in order to see further gains. Regularity means that you must make it a priority, preferably two to three times per week, because 

sporadic efforts can do more harm than good. When a muscle is overloaded, or subjected to workloads above what it’s used to, it adapts by becoming stronger. Finally, many muscular aches and pains are caused by muscular imbalances; thus, specificity requires that emphasis be placed on strengthening the specific muscle groups that need it most in order to bring your body back into balance.

Norm Hanson has been working with personal trainer Travis Hayes at Snap Fitness on Academy at Tramway for about 18 months. In that time, Norm has lowered his cholesterol by 80 points and lost 15 pounds, but even more remarkable, he has lost three pant sizes due to his increased lean muscle mass.

So how does one get started? First, you should have a formal fitness assessment to ensure that you are healthy enough to begin a training program, to properly design the program, and to have a baseline against which to gauge your progress. Snap Fitness provides a free assessment with a personal trainer every three months. If you are older and have been sedentary most of your life or if you have a heart condition or suffer from diabetes, it may be necessary to obtain your physician’s consent. Early strength training focuses on core stability and balance. Common exercises include squats, lunges, push-ups, and planks. As you progress, stability balls, resistance bands, and medicine balls can be incorporated into these exercises. More advanced workouts might involve kettlebells, free weights, and the Bosu ball. The TRX suspension device is also a fun way to work on your core strength and muscular balance. And resistance machines can target specific muscle groups. A strength training workout no longer needs to be thought of as a boring regimen of sets and reps — there are a multitude of ways to workout.

Training has never been so much fun! And the improvements in emotional well-being — positive outlook, increased energy, and more restful sleep — are now widely documented. So what are you waiting for? The time for total body wellness is now!

Snap Fitness is a 24/7 gym with three locations in Albuquerque.  Call 332-3944 or go to http://www.snapfitness.com/corporate/club-locator for information.

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