Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.
Strength Versus Endurance
Think of someone strong in your life. You might be thinking of someone emotionally strong, or someone physically strong like your gym buddy or a sports teammate. Physical strength is the ability to exert power on an object. Picture Olympic weightlifters. These athletes are incredibly strong. They are able to lift hundreds of pounds as no one else can. How does this differ from endurance?
Endurance is the ability to stay aerobically active for a long time. Although endurance athletes need to be strong, it's a different type of strength from a power lifter. Examples of endurance athletes include marathon runners or triathletes. These athletes need to exert less energy per unit time, but can carry on an activity for a very long time. Today, we're going to look at the benefits of both types of training and some activities that can increase your performance.
Benefits of Strength Training
Strength training is a great way to improve your physical performance, gain lean muscle and lose body fat. Strength training, such as lifting weights in the gym, isn't just good for your muscles. Bone density increases with resistance training, leading to stronger bones, and decreased risk of bone diseases such as osteoporosis, especially in the elderly. Strength training also helps manage chronic conditions, such as back pain, balance issues, even heart disease and diabetes.
Building muscle also increases your metabolism, which means you break down food faster, and are more likely to lose weight. In addition, muscle takes up far less space than the same amount of fat. Thus, although you might gain weight lifting, you're going to look leaner since muscle is more dense than the fat it's replacing.
So, how do you start getting these great benefits? Any type of exercise program should be reviewed by a medical professional and increased gradually. That means starting slow with only one or two workouts per week and low weight. There are several styles of program that can help you strength train:
- Body weight exercises: This type of exercise is great because you can do it anywhere. You simply work against the weight of your body. Pushups, pull-ups, squats and lunges are examples that you can do. As you get stronger however, these exercises will become easy and you'll need to start adding more resistance. This is a great place to start your training.
- Tubing: Exercise bands and tubes can provide resistance at a lower level than lifting free weights. Many physical therapy programs progress from body weight to tube exercises.
- Weight Machines: These are the machines you see at the gym that target a specific muscle group. They are a nice step up from tubing because they guide your motion, making sure you keep the correct form and stay safe.
- Free weights: Picture a classic body building gym. Those giant barbells and dumbbells of all sizes are free weights. Free weights can be tricky because you need to have proper form and balance to avoid injury. They can be great for working stabilizing muscles and your core, even if you're working another body part, because you need to keep your balance.
Benefits of Endurance Training
Endurance training is great for heart health. Your heart is a muscle, and when you do endurance training, your heart has to work harder to pump blood to your muscles. When your heart works harder, just like strength training, it gets stronger. Your lungs also have to work harder, which increases your overall lung capacity.
Endurance training also burns calories, leading to weight loss. Doctors recommend about 75 minutes of vigorous endurance training, or 150 minutes of moderate training a week to see these benefits.
Endurance training is great because you need very minimal equipment to get started. Like strength training, an endurance training program should be started slowly, and ramped up as your body gets stronger and faster. Combining strength training and endurance training on different days of the week can improve your health even more than either alone. However, you need to make sure you have some rest days, where you don't work out, to let your muscles heal and grow. Here's some activities to get you started:
- Walking: Gently walking, or even speed walking is a great place to start if your new to endurance training. Head out with a friend and have a brisk walk around the park for some moderate endurance training.
- Running: Running can be hard on your joints, but its a rewarding endurance activity if you train properly. Running is a vigorous activity and is also easy to start. Just step outside, stretch and hit the road.
- Biking: If running is too hard on your joints, biking is also an excellent endurance activity. You can take a leisurely ride with the family for moderate training, or get into some hills and all out sprints to make it more intense. Make sure to wear a helmet and keep bright lights on your bike for visibility.
- Others: Rowing, swimming, rock climbing, hiking, and other outdoor activities all count as endurance training. Just make sure your heart rate is up and you're breathing heavy to count it towards your weekly total.
Strength training increases your muscular power. It can burn fat, create a lean body composition, increase bone health as well as prevent chronic conditions like heart disease or back pain. Body weight exercises, tubing, weight machines and free weights can all be part of a strength training program. Endurance training involves aerobic activity for an extended period of time. This training increases your heart and lung health and can help you manage your weight. Walking, biking, running, or other activities all count towards endurance training. Always check with a doctor before starting any type of training program.
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