In the quest for a high quality of life and independent living, consistent strength training is a pathway that leads us to that goal. Did you know that adults lose 5 pounds to 7 pounds of muscle mass every decade after age 20?
Consequently, strength training is important for everyone at every age. But strength training is more than creating muscle that helps us look better, it’s also about providing life-changing benefits.
Let’s back up a bit and review anatomy 101. There are more than 600 muscles in the human body. These muscles do everything from pump blood throughout your body to kick a soccer ball. Muscles are a type of elastic tissue that resembles a rubber band and are comprised of thousands of small fibers. There are different kinds of muscles, but we will concentrate on the skeletal muscles. These are the muscles that work with your bones to give your body power and motion.
There are some amazing benefits to lifting weights. Weight loss and weight control have a direct link to strength training. When you increase your muscle mass, your metabolic rate increases. Even after lifting weights, your muscles keep working and burn more calories. Other health benefits include a decrease in the risk of osteoporosis by increasing body density, lower blood pressure and slower aging.
Not only does strength training help to tone our muscles to provide a fitter, healthy looking body, but it also improves our posture. Everyday activities become easier through increased balance, stability and coordination. When you think about getting in and out of a car, reaching for an item on the top shelf of a grocery isle or pushing a lawnmower, all of these things are related to keeping our muscular system strong.
Strength training can be performed in a variety of ways. Some examples include using free weights, circuit machines, resistance bands, functional fitness and strength classes.
Free weights are just that — individual hand weights or weight bars you can lift in a number of ways. You can use hand weights in a bicep curl or shoulder press, for example. Circuit machines allow you to work different muscle groups, changing the weight and machine adjustments to fit your body and strength level. It could be helpful to work with a trainer to make sure you’re using the appropriate weight and proper form.
Resistance bands provide strength training in engaging your muscles in both directions — the pull and release. The amount of resistance depends on the type of band and how it’s used.
Functional fitness training involves using many different types of equipment in ways that mimic everyday movements. Many of these movements use only your own body weight for resistance. Such structured fitness classes as yoga, Pilates and Bodypump® engage and strengthen your muscles.
Consistency is the most important aspect in strength training. Aim for two to three times a week, resting for 48 hours in between workouts to allow your muscles to heal. Include upper body, lower body and core exercises to make sure you’re working your entire body. Remember to always check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
Quality of life is what we all strive for. It’s never too late to begin strength training. Every one of us at any age needs to work on increasing our muscle mass and bone density. Strength training gives us many benefits to accomplish a healthy lifestyle and independence.