While the words “strength” and “endurance” may conjure up pictures of ultra fit athletes with chiseled physiques, strength and endurance physical training are also beneficial to non-athletes, weekend warriors, and just about anyone who wants to improve their overall health and fitness. The areas of strength and endurance training are not just for the young or male gender, as people of all ages, genders, and physical abilities are able to improve their health and appearance through dedicating time to the development and maintenance of muscular strength and physical endurance.
While both strength and endurance each have their positive aspect in the way they can impact one’s life, they are quite different in the mechanisms involved and the purposes they pose. It is important to understand strength and endurance separately in order to reap the most benefits of the individual activities. Muscle endurance is the ability of a muscle to perform a continuous effort, without experiencing fatigue (Powers, Dodd, & Jackson, 2013). In order to sustain activity over a long period of time, building muscle endurance is essential. Slow twitch muscle fibers are developed and utilized during endurance training, as the demands can be better met by the slow twitch fibers since they cannot exert as much force compared to the fast twitch. However, slow twitch muscle fibers can sustain activity and effort over a greater amount of time as composed to the fast twitch muscle fibers (Powers, Dodd, & Jackson, 2013). Slow twitch muscle fibers allow endurance athletes, such as marathon runners, to keep a steady pace for a long period of time.
While muscle endurance refers to how many times a muscle can repeat a movement, muscle strength pertains to the amount of force a muscle can exert in a short measure of time (Powers, Dodd, & Jackson, 2013). Whereas endurance actions involve the slow twitch muscle fibers, strength utilize fast twitch muscle fibers that contract quickly and with more force than the slow twitch muscle fibers. However, the strong contractions involved in muscle strength make the muscle fibers fatigue quickly, thus highlighting the importance of developing both strength and endurance since they each operate on different muscle fiber systems.
There are great benefits that accompany strength and endurance training, which include a reduction in joint or muscle injuries, delaying the weakening of muscle strength that usually occurs as people age due to a more sedentary lifestyle, and strength and endurance training also contributes to both metabolic and heart health (Powers, Dodd, & Jackson, 2013). Research also suggests that strength training may reduce the risk of a premature death, with stronger men being less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and cancer (Powers, Dodd, & Jackson, 2013). As mentioned previously, strength and endurance training can prevent injuries during daily life events, as it allows for the maintenance of good posture and encourages advantageous and correct body mechanics when walking and lifting (Powers, Dodd, & Jackson, 2013), which are two actions that the majority of individuals carry out throughout their days.
The physical benefits that occur with strength and endurance training may not be as readily achievable through aerobic activities, such as the increase in muscle and bone health as individuals age. Muscle loss usually begins in the third decade of life, and by the time they reach the age of 75 years, most women will not be able to lift more than 10 pounds (Powers, Dodd, & Jackson, 2013). Through strength training, the likelihood of becoming injured while performing everyday activities is greatly reduced, even into old age. Strength and endurance training may also increase cardiovascular health, lessening the chance of developing diabetes and other metabolic diseases (Powers, Dodd, & Jackson, 2013). This is done through the improvement of glucose metabolism, increasing oxygen consumption, reducing blood pressure, increasing HDL cholesterol while reducing LDL cholesterol, and improving the health of blood vessels (Powers, Dodd, & Jackon, 2013).
As the above information suggests, strength and endurance training are not relegated just to professional athletes or bodybuilders, as the benefits can allow individuals to live a healthier life, with a reduction in the incidence of injuries. Incorporating the strength and endurance activities into one’s exercise rotation can help to improve the quality of life, not only now, but as one ages too.
Powers, S. K., Dodd, S. L., & Jackson, E. M. (2013). Improving muscular strength and endurance. In Total fitness & wellness (6th ed.). Benjamin Cummings.