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Group Strength Training
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Physical inactivity is a clear health risk. Being sedentary is linked to many medical conditions, including heart disease, hypertension, obesity, and diabetes. In an article published in the March 10, 2004 issue of the Journal of American Medical Association, poor diet and physical inactivity were linked to 400,000 U.S. deaths in the year 2000 or approximately 16.6% of all deaths in the study. Poor diet and physical inactivity ranked 2nd, being surpassed only by tobacco use, which was responsible for 435,000 deaths in the U.S. Alcohol use, infections, toxins, motor vehicle accidents, and firearm deaths were each responsible for less than 100,000 deaths in this study. (Mokdad, A., Marks, J., Stroup, D., Gerberding, J. Actual causes of death in the United States, 2000. JAMA. 2004; 291(10): 1238-1245.)
To combat the increasing prevalence of these disorders and promote health and well- being, various organizations have made recommendations regarding physical activity.
The general guidelines for physical activity address the 3 elements of a well-rounded fitness program: aerobic or cardiorespiratory training; strength or resistance training; and flexibility or stretching exercises. Aerobic or cardiorespiratory activity is the type of physical activity that improves circulation and heart health, as well as lung function. It consists of repetitive movements of large muscle groups over a sustained period and includes such activities as brisk walking, jogging, bicycling, hiking, and swimming. It utilizes oxygen for energy production, which why it is often referred to as aerobic exercise. (Aerobic means that oxygen is utilized for this activity.) It is sometimes called endurance training. This type of exercise forms the cornerstone of a fitness regimen. It is recommended that it be performed for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
Strength training or resistance exercise includes muscle strengthening exercises that can be done with barbells, dumbbells, resistance bands, circuit training equipment, or other devices. It also helps to preserve bone density. It is complementary to aerobic activity. Both of these types of exercise (aerobic and strength training) can have beneficial effects on blood cholesterol and lipids. Aerobic exercise can be helpful in reducing blood pressure. Some, but not all, studies have shown a slight reduction of blood pressure with resistance training. Strength training is also important to increase the muscle mass, which increases the basal metabolic rate, and results in a greater daily calorie burn. It is recommended that resistance (strength) training be performed 2 or more times a week, on non-consecutive days. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests starting with 1 set for each of the major muscle groups in the body, with each set consisting of approximately 8-12 repetitions. If you are new to exercise, it may be helpful to consider enlisting the aid of a personal trainer.Tips to selecting a personal trainer:
A 3rd and overlooked element of a fitness program is stretching, designed to improve flexibility. Stretching can be performed following aerobic exercise. It is suggested that flexibility exercises be performed for the major muscle groups. This includes exercises to stretch the legs, arms, hips, and trunk. Most stretches should be held for a minimum of 10 and up to 30 seconds and repeated 2-3 times each. Stretching is best done at the end of a workout rather than at the beginning.
Trying to incorporate all 3 elements of a fitness routine can seem time-consuming. Many people perform aerobic exercise and strength training on different days of the week. Others prefer to perform both types of exercises, followed by stretching, during the same workout session. This practice may be useful for those with limited time, who may only exercise a few days per week. There are group fitness classes that combine aerobic activity and muscle conditioning. One such class uses continuous movements to elevate heart rate and produce cardiorespiratory benefits. It consists of a series of sets using light weights designed to train the body in a successive fashion, moving from one muscle group to another. Theses classes typically last about an hour. They include a warm-up period, the training session itself, and a cool-down phase, which incorporates stretching. These classes are efficient since they offer the opportunity to tone muscles and sculpt physique while improving aerobic conditioning and enhancing flexibility. The participant chooses the weights used in the exercises, and the tempo of the class can be adjusted. As such, both novice and experienced exercisers can participate in the class and benefit from its design. For most individuals, this type of exercise class qualifies as moderate intensity activity. It typically does not provide as much of a cardiovascular challenge as dedicated aerobic activities, such as brisk walking, jogging, or cycling. Also, it does not stimulate as much muscle growth as a dedicated strength-training program, such as performed with free weights, during the same period of time. However, this type of class is a satisfactory blend of both aerobic and resistance training for many individuals. These types of classes are offered at many health clubs at no additional charge to the gym membership.Benefits of strength training, resistance training, and weight lifting: For the benefits of aerobic exercise, please see the following links:
The American College of Sports Medicine has health and fitness brochures available to the general public. Individual brochures can be obtained by sending a self addressed, stamped business-sized envelope to ACSM National Center, PO Box 1440, Indianapolis, Indiana, 42606-1440. Many of the brochures are available free of charge via the internet as pdf files.For a list of available brochures: