When you do strength training you are engaging different energy systems and muscle fibres than you use when you’re doing aerobic training. This type of exercise is more intense and requires that we create more force with our muscles than what we need to do when we’re doing light to moderate intensity aerobic activity. Just think of the difference between hiking in the woods vs. carrying heavy bags of groceries. One requires a little bit of energy over a long time (hiking) and the other requires a lot of force over a short period of time (carrying). Both are critical for health and performance.

We have 2 main kinds of muscle fibres: type 1 which are aerobic endurance fibres that we use to do light activity and type 2 fibres that we use for activities that require strength and speed. By engaging your type 2 muscle fibres, you are working the full spectrum of your muscle fibres. This develops your total muscle strength and prepares your body for situations when you have to pick up the pace – like the final kick when the finish line comes into sight, or sprinting for a bus. New research also shows that higher intensity training can be powerfully beneficial for your brain.

Strength training is also great if you want to improve your body composition and lose fat. Muscle tissue burns fat most easily. If you can increase your muscle mass, you will have more metabolically active tissue that will burn fat as fuel, even at rest. Remember that when you are strength training, you may gain some weight, even though you are losing fat. Your focus needs to be on body composition, not the number on the scale. So keep in mind that this kind of weight gain is healthy for you.

Worried that you are going to get big and bulky if you lift weights? Don’t be. The reality is that unless you make a decision to get into bodybuilding, you will find that lifting weights for strength simply improves your body composition, helps you feel better and slows the aging process—all without developing big, bulky muscles.

It is critical to maintain proper form when you’re doing strength training. Get some help to learn the right exercises for you and how to build a training program. See a Registered Kinesiologist, or certified strength and conditioning specialist. A good standard to look for is someone with a degree in kinesiology who is also a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS).

Today's POWER-UP: Muscular Meditation

Muscular meditation is any activity where you move in a repetitive, rhythmic pattern. Examples include walking, swimming, cycling, jogging, rowing and paddling.

We’re looking for any type of exercise where your muscles are contracting in a consistent pattern over a period of time. This form of movement helps to put the brain in a state where it can relax and your mind can wander.

If you do this regularly, it can be very powerful for stress reduction, as well as for decreasing symptoms of depression and anxiety.