You run, walk, and ride your bike to keep your heart and lungs in good shape. You stretch your muscles and do yoga to stay limber and flexible. But are you also doing regular strengthening exercises?
Strengthening or resistance exercises help keep your muscles that support your back, abdomen, knees, chest, shoulders, neck, and wrists strong and less likely to get injured. Strong muscles mean greater endurance and energy, a faster metabolism (which burns more calories), and better posture.
"I want to lift weights to be stronger," says "Ella" (not her real name), 17. "But I don't want to look like a football player!"
"Hey, I do want to look like a football player," says "Josh," 14. "I'm going out for the team next year and need to bulk up."
There are good reasons, although they are different for Ella and Josh, why both teens should do strength training: it builds muscle strength, tones the body, builds endurance, develops stronger bones and even promotes weight loss. But they need...
Strengthening exercises work muscles as they move against resistance. This resistance can come from workout machines, free weights or barbells, elastic bands, water, stairs, hills, cans of vegetables from the pantry -- even your own body weight as you do a pushup.
For example, walking on a treadmill (which is aerobic exercise) becomes strengthening as you raise the incline of the treadmill.
Benefits of Strengthening Exercises
Just as aerobic exercise keeps your heart in peak condition, regular strengthening exercises help keep your other muscles strong and healthy.
For example, your lower back and abdominal muscles stabilize the spine, allow proper spinal movement, and help with posture.
Strengthening hip and leg muscles is also important, so you can safely lift objects from the floor using your leg muscles rather than those in your back.
Strengthening exercises also build muscle mass. The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn all day.
Strengthening exercises lower blood pressure and help cholesterol levels, and help make your bones stronger.