Dr Michael Mosley on the benefits of exercise
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Strength training offers a myriad of benefits, including improved mood. David Wiener, Training Specialist at AI-based fitness and lifestyle coaching app Freeletics, explained: “There is evidence to show that exercising makes the brain feel happy.”
He continued: “Movement triggers the release of feel-good hormones such as dopamine and serotonin which can lift your mood, intensify your drive and make you feel more positive in general.
“This, in turn, may mean you’re more likely to try new things, lift heavier weights, or push yourself a little bit harder.
“In addition, research has shown that smiling during your workout can, whether you’re happy or not, push you to do better and lift heavier.”
So what other benefits can strength training provide? David lists the following.
It can correct poor posture
The right resistance training programme has the capacity to help you improve your posture and correct muscular imbalances, said David.
He explained: “Bad posture is often the result of some muscles being too tight while the opposite muscle is too weak, which can lead to slouching and aches and pains. By strengthening the right (weak) muscle and stretching the too tight muscle, you can reduce the risk of injury and stand taller.
“Research also shows that poor posture negatively affects your ability to breathe deeply and fill your lungs. Slouching shortens the muscles at the front of your body and reduces your ability to breathe in fully. Standing up tall may improve your ability to bring in oxygen by as much as 30 percent.
“Good posture also helps your internal organs to align well, which results in less compression on your stomach, intestines, and liver, facilitating the free flow of food and digestive juices. A slouched posture inhibits the normal activity of your gastrointestinal system, which makes you vulnerable to digestive distress such as constipation and acid reflux (heartburn).”
It can increase mobility and flexibility
Strength training, flexibility, and mobility are inextricably linked, with both flexibility and mobility helping you to maintain proper exercise techniques which can help you to reach your full range of motion and properly target muscle groups to build strength.
David advised: “With stronger muscles, you can then perform more complex movements and build even more strength and explosiveness.
“For maximum gains when it comes to flexibility and mobility, strength training should be paired with a dynamic warm up to prepare muscles pre-workout and a static stretching cool down to lengthen muscles post-workout.
“Warming up and cooling down properly can also help to prevent injury.”
It can push you out of your comfort zone
“While strength training can be done through bodyweight-only exercises, if you are interested in going the extra mile and pushing yourself further, lifting weights can also be a great option,” said David.
“Beginners should pick up weights that can be maintained for the whole duration of their work out and work up to heavier weights as they get stronger and fitter.
“If you’re keen to push yourself out of your comfort zone and progress, it’s important to know your physical limits and listen to your body to reduce the risk of injury which can hamper your long-term progress.”
Make sure you prioritise rest and recovery
When lifting weights, be sure to give yourself plenty of time for rest and recovery, said David.
He added: “The process for muscle building includes progressive overload, muscle damage, repair, and new growth. In order to ensure that this cycle occurs, it is advisable to take a couple of training sessions every four to six weeks. This provides a ‘window’ in which the body can replenish itself and build even stronger muscles.
“Freeletics, Europe’s number one fitness app, creates hyper-personalised fitness plans to help you reach your goals. From weightlifting, running, and bodyweight-only training plans, Freeletics takes the stress out of planning and maintaining a training regime. Not only this, but the app also has tutorial videos of each exercise to make sure your technique is on point.”
Focus on form
Form is incredibly important, especially if you are lifting weights.
David explained: “Proper form will ensure that you avoid injury and get the most from each exercise, so definitely pay attention to your technique. If you’re unsure or trying a new move, watch video tutorials of the exercises before you attempt them. You could also try filming yourself or trialling the exercise in front of a mirror to make sure your form is correct throughout. Finally, if something doesn’t feel right, or you feel pain in muscle groups you’re not working, stop.”
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