Strength training is for everyone — not just body builders, professional weight lifters or football players. It is one type of exercise that benefits your heart, improves your balance, strengthens your bones, and helps you lose weight, plus it makes you look and feel better. Doesn’t that make you want to get started? Strength training can benefit people of all ages and may be particularly important for people with health issues such as arthritis or a heart condition. For seniors with health issues that might make strenuous exercise difficult, resistance training can be an accessible, healthful option that provides both physical and mental benefits.
Resistance training is any exercise that causes the muscles to contract against an external resistance with the expectation of increases in strength, tone, mass, and/or endurance. The external resistance can be dumbbells, rubber exercise tubing, your own body weight, bricks, bottles of water, or any other object that causes the muscles to contract.
Yes, strength training will add definition to your muscles and give men and women alike more fit and toned bodies. But working out with weights does so much, much more. Strength training:
- Helps get the weight off and keep it off for good. According to a recent study, women who followed a weight-training routine three times a week increased the amount of calories burned in regular daily activity (in addition to those burned during exercise), helping them to maintain their current weight.
- Protects against loss of bone health and muscle mass. After puberty, men and women begin to lose about one percent of your bone and muscle strength every year. “One of the best ways to stop, prevent, and even reverse bone and muscle loss is to add strength training to your workouts,” states Troy Tuttle, MS, an exercise physiologist at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston.
- Strengthens and tones muscles. Strength training is also called resistance training because it involves strengthening and toning your muscles by contracting them against a resisting force. There are two types of resistance training:
- Isometric resistance: contracting your muscles against a non-moving object, such as against the floor in a push-up.
- Isotonic strength training: contracting your muscles through a range of motion as in weight lifting.
Both make you stronger and can get you into better shape. Remember that with strength training your muscles need time to recover, so it should only be done on alternate days. Always take time to warm up before and cool down after strength training.
- Helps you develop better body mechanics improves balance, coordination and posture. It can reduce your risk of falling by as much as 40 percent, which is crucial as you get older.
- Plays a role in disease prevention and treatment. It can be as effective as medication in decreasing arthritis pain. Can help post-menopausal women increase their bone density and reduce the risk of bone fractures.
- Can help improve glucose control for those with diabetes
- Boosts energy levels and improves your mood by elevating your endorphin level. It has also been proven to be ward off depression, help you sleep better, and improve your overall quality of life.
- Makes you continue to burn more calories, even after your workout. This process is called “physiologic homework.” More calories are used to make and maintain muscle than fat, and in fact strength training can boost your metabolismby 15 percent — that can really jumpstart a weight loss plan.
- Can be an accessible, healthful option that provides both physical and mental benefits for seniors with health issues that might make strenuous exercise difficult, resistance training
To get started in strength training, you don’t have to join a gym or invest in expensive weights or machines. Pushups, jump squats, lunges, mountain climbing, and yoga are all examples of exercises that provide strength training.
As with any new physical activity, talk to your doctor before you get started. You can also work with a personal fitness trainer to design a strength-training program that will be safe and effective for you and will fit your schedule.