Aerobics, yoga, Pilates … any type of exercise that you choose and perform will bring immense benefits to your health. But there is one that serves as a perfect complement to any other physical routine and is, in particular, the exercise of resistance or with weights. In addition to burning calories, it will tone and define your muscles and strengthen your bones. Do you dare to take the test?

Maritza recently enrolled in an aerobics class at a gym near her home. He loves his instructor and does not miss that training time 3 times a week. Several of her classmates have invited her to do exercises with weights on the gym machines, but Maritza is not encouraged because she is afraid of becoming too muscular. Are you right or are you simply missing out on a great opportunity?

Although there is no doubt that aerobic exercises are good for heart health, to regulate cholesterol and blood pressure, they are only part of the total equation. A balanced program of exercises requires, as an essential part, to incorporate resistance exercises or with weights. And at any age! Let’s see why:

  • Weight exercises strengthen muscles. Although with exercises such as yoga one’s own body weight is used to strengthen the muscles, the body adapts and there comes a time when the benefits are diminished. With the weights, you can continue to progressively increase the load and also, you can focus on specific muscles or areas (shoulders or biceps, for example).
  • Weight exercises stimulate the metabolism.  This allows you to burn calories more quickly because muscle mass is increased , which uses much more energy than fat tissue.
  • By increasing muscle strength, pain and discomfort are prevented, especially in the back, and common injuries are avoided when performing daily tasks (such as lifting objects).
  • Resistance exercises help to increase bone density (bone) : when the muscles contract, they shorten and pull the bones (pull them), which stimulates their growth. This is particularly important for women, who may lose up to 20% of their bone density during menopause. The firmer and stronger bones also translate into fewer injuries and fractures, for both sexes, not just for women!
  • Do resistance exercises to burn more calories, even up to 3 to 6 hours after training. People who are on a diet to lose weight should include them in their diet because losing pounds or kilos, up to a quarter of the weight lost comes from the muscles and that can make the metabolism slow down. Endurance exercises help repair muscle tissue and prevent its loss.
  • The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) lists several studies that show that this type of exercise improves balance , reduces arthritis pain , improves blood sugar control , and improves sleep and mood condition.

When you begin?

All people, no matter how old, can benefit from a resistance exercise program. Adolescents can improve their performance in other sports, while adults can delay the symptoms associated with aging. And even those who are already in their third years can remain independent longer, with stronger, more flexible and stable bodies.

The ideal, as in the case of Maritza, would be to take advantage of the specialized machines of a gym and the supervision of an expert trainer, especially at the beginning. But do not think that you have to invest a fortune in memberships and / or in equipment. You can also do these exercises in your home, with the help of free weights of different weights (you can replace them with cans of vegetables, rice bags or water bottles), and bands or elastic bands that are purchased in stores where they sell sports articles. A book or DVD can illustrate the basic exercises and you can do them in the privacy of your own home, in front of your television. The DVD has the advantage of being accompanied by music and the coach encourages you to continue and not surrender easily.

You dare? Keep in mind the following:

  • Before you start, get a physical exam . Ask your doctor what level of exercise is most appropriate for you.
  • Set goals If you want to increase your muscles, use more weight and perform fewer repetitions. If you are interested in increasing your resistance, use lighter weights, but do more repetitions. Try to schedule at least two weight sessions a week. Women should not fear being unfeminine or very muscular, because everything depends on the level of training (the amount of weight and the number of repetitions). In addition, if you combine this type of exercise with stretching and aerobics, the result is a better defined body and better muscle tone, no more bulky.
  • Start with a good warm-up session : 5 to 10 minutes of low intensity aerobic exercise (walking on the spot, or on the mat, or on the stationary bike). The muscles will be well conditioned and flexible to perform better the exercises with weights.
  • Start with little resistance or light weight and increase them gradually. The most important thing is to learn the proper technique to perform each exercise and that is best achieved with little weight at first. This also avoids unnecessary injuries.
  • Once you have established a warm-up system, know the exercises and the proper technique, increase the weight and resistance, so that the muscles feel tired (or “burn”) after 8 to 12 repetitions. You should not feel pain, but muscle fatigue. That is the way to strengthen them: subject them to greater tension.
  • Start by working on large muscle groups (legs, chest, or back). This avoids tiring the smaller muscles that can help you later with other exercises.
  • If you use machines, learn to use them safely and correctly fix the weights to avoid injuries.
  • Keep knees and elbows slightly bent, even during extensions.
  • Do not hold your breath . The muscles are working hard and need all the oxygen you can provide. Exhale during the period of effort and inhale when returning to the initial position.
  • Remember to maintain the technique and good form to achieve maximum benefits and avoid injuries. When you can no longer keep fit because of fatigue, it’s time to stop the session or try another different exercise.
  • Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after the workout.
  • Train the upper body one day (arms, back) and another day work the thighs and legs. Leave a period of 48 hours between one session and another for the muscles to recover. After the first session, expect to feel the muscles slightly sore. This is normal, but you should not feel a very sharp pain.
  • If you have a medical problem or a previous injury, you may need to completely avoid some exercises or make a modified version. In this case, it is essential to work with a specialized instructor.
  • Finish each workout with a stretching session to tone muscles and make them more flexible.

Stop exercising immediately if you feel muscle cramps or pain in your joints, feet or legs. Seek medical attention if you experience chest pain or pressure, if you feel dizzy, nauseated, if you feel cold or if you lose consciousness.

Rome was not made in a day, so do not pretend to do everything all of a sudden. Keep in mind that the strengthening of the muscles and the increase of your resistance will develop over time. If you are constant in your sessions and you are increasing the weight little by little, you will see how your ability to perform your daily tasks is improved, from moving a piece of furniture to loading the shopping bags, reducing your muscle aches and fatigue end of the day, however hectic it may be.

Try to start today and you will tell me the results!

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