Some people, when starting an exercise program, believe that building muscle mass is not as important as doing exercises for cardio fitness. A few are worried that excessive weight training will cause them to be muscle bound or become injured. However, building muscle mass is just as important as building cardio endurance. The two complement each other to create a balanced fitness program. So why is it beneficial to build muscle mass as well as cardio endurance? Here are a few reasons for your consideration.
The obvious reason is muscle mass just looks better. You can compare two people side-by-side and while they both might have no body fat, the one with the muscle tone looks healthier and stronger. The muscular person also has tighter and healthier looking skin.
Regular strength training helps to reverse aging effects. Normally with aging there is reduced muscle mass, bone loss, lower tolerance for glucose, and a decrease in aerobic ability. But a regular program to build muscle counteracts these processes. For one, muscle training works against the effects of what is known as Sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is the name given to age-related muscle fiber loss which affects the skeletal structure and coordination of movement. Visible effects of Sarcopenia are seen as spinal curvature due to lack of muscle support and difficulties with motor coordination.
You get increased metabolism as you build muscle. Metabolism refers to how much energy your body burns for its daily maintenance. Your body is always burning calories—even at rest. For example, your body needs calories to convert into energy for maintaining your heart rate and digestive activity. People with higher metabolic rates burn more calories and thus maintain lower overall weight. Those with more muscle mass have higher metabolic rates because muscle needs more calories for maintenance compared to fat.
Building muscle mass increases stability. Stability is especially important as you get older because it reduces the risk of falls which can cause serious injury. Stability is also important when doing weight training exercises with free weights like dumbbells and barbells.
It will give you strength for other exercises. These would be the exercises that are not focused on building mass but rather for flexibility and cardio health.
There is a decreased risk of injury overall. Having muscles means your body can withstand stress much more. Your tendons and ligaments are not as likely to become torn or overstretched. Your bones become stronger which counteracts the onset of osteoporosis that can occur as you get older.
It reduces your risk of disease. When combined with cardio exercise and a healthy diet, building muscles reduces your risk of heart disease. It has also been reported that doing muscle building exercises reduces your risk of the onset of Alzheimer’s disease because they help your cognitive health.
You must constantly raise the notch in order to build muscle. A common mistake made by those trying to build muscle is thinking that they are accomplishing their goal if they can easily lift their weights. Muscle building doesn’t work like this. Mass is built by creating small tears in muscle tissue and then allowing them to heal (usually within 48 hours). Those tears are created by lifting weight that puts stress on the muscle tissue. One suggested rule of thumb is that if you can do more than 6 repetitions of any resistance set then you need to increase the weight.