When some of us hear the words "strength training," we envision huge sweaty muscular guys grunting in the gym while lifting ridiculous amounts of weight. These days are long gone!
In the last 20 years, there has been an astronomical amount of research done on human performance and the benefits of strength training. This research has been done across all demographics - from professional athletes, to seniors in personal care homes. It includes patients with various diseases, such as obesity, multiple sclerosis, dementia, diabetes, depression, and much more.
Strength training is safe and effective for almost anyone and should be incorporated into your weekly exercise routine. Here are the reasons why:
1. Stop the shrinking!
After our mid to late twenties, we all start to lose muscle mass and muscle strength. This is called sarcopenia. Strength training can slow this process down by helping to maintain good muscle mass and muscle metabolism. Sarcopenia has negative health affects for seniors with 30% being affected at the age of 65 and 50% being affected at 85. This contributes to higher risks of falls, hospitalization, diabetes, weight gain, and osteoporosis.
2. Weight loss
Muscles are furnaces for burning calories! Muscle tissue burns up to three times more calories than fat tissue. Studies show that you can increase your resting metabolic rate with increased muscle mass. Many studies show that strength training is more efficient in loosing fat compared to aerobic exercise.
It doesn't end after you leave the gym. Your body is still burning calories for the next 24 to 48 hours as it works to repair stressed muscle tissues. That's known as "the afterburn effect," another name for excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). The more oxygen you use, both during and after a workout, the greater the EPOC. Studies show strength training is one of the best ways to achieve this.
Lifting heavy loads in short bursts causes the body to make type II muscle fibers. These is the muscle type that requires the most calories. Strength training also gets the body producing metabolism-enhancing hormones that cause fat burning and aid in the production of muscle tissue.
3. Increase your endurance and strength
Strength training has repeatedly been shown to help muscle endurance in high performance athletes and the general population. When your muscles are stronger, they work more efficiently and therefore can work longer. Increased muscle mass helps with the efficiency of the body's ability to transport oxygen and maintain an optimal metabolism. This is important for everyone from the recreational hockey player, the seasonal pickle ball player, or the senior that wants to climb that flight of stairs.
4. It helps to prevent broken bones
When you put force onto a bone, you lay down more bone tissue. Strength training, even with minimal weights, has been shown to do this. You can decrease risk of hip fractures and all other fractures, as a senior, by strength training. Strength training also helps to reinforce the central nervous system to help muscles react faster causing better balance and force to the ground. A strong neuromuscular connection is a primary indicator for longevity and well- being for all ages.
5. Overall health improvement
Strength training has physical and mental benefits like all exercise. As mentioned, weight loss is easier to achieve with strength training than aerobic exercise. With this comes a decrease risk in all metabolic disease including: diabetes, cancers, chronic inflammation, cardiovascular diseases, and dementia. Strength training later in life has been shown to decrease overall mortality by improving balance, mobility, and therefore fall risks. It's the old adage: "Use it or loose it!"
Call to Action
Strength training is essential to maintain good health. Do not feel that it is a lot of work or that you don't have the right tools at home to do it. Research shows that three workouts per week with 30 minutes per session is the minimum ideal frequency to gain benefits.
The best starting point is to do exercises that involve body weight resistance such as: push ups, squats, lunges, dips, climbing steps, box jumps, back extensions, and pull ups. All of these exercises can be done at home without any equipment. Progression to using weights and/or a gym ball will give you more challenge and thus more resistance. Most senior living centers have exercise classes that involve strength work using body weight resistance. Get out and move!
Lastly, move onto lifting some weight. Starting with large movements such as loaded squats, dead lifts, lunges, and rows. Find someone that knows about strength training once you start to lift heavier weight. This will help prevent injury. Visit your local gym to get instructions on how to perform these exercises to ensure you don't get injured.
Activity Fact: The most weight lifted in a dead lift (lifting a bar with weights on it off the floor to waist height) is 500 kg or 1102 lbs!!!