“She girds herself with strength, and strengthens her arms“. Proverbs 31:17
As we have seen in a previous post, a sedentary lifestyle is a health threat that worsens many medical conditions and leads to premature death in both men and women. Hopefully, this fact motivates you to start moving a little more. I have only become a regular exerciser in the last few years. I never really did it before, maybe off and on, because I just don’t like to exercise.😰 I now realize I was foolish in that respect. According to Vonda Wright, (an orthopedic surgeon and director of a program for senior athletes) it is a myth that we are destined to become frail as we age. However, being inactive will make it more likely to happen. Walking and doing cardio activities are great to get our hearts pumping and our bodies moving, but that’s not enough! We need to be strength training as well. Miriam Nelson states that adding strength to your cardio should be non-negotiable, especially if you are over 40.
According to Marilyn Diamond, in her book Young for Life, after age 30, we start to lose muscle mass. This begins even earlier if we have a sedentary lifestyle. This is called sarcopenia. Dr. Wright states that we lose 15% of muscle mass each decade between 50-70 and 30% after age 70.
The loss of muscle is one factor that leads to premature aging. We feel weaker, our muscles stiffen, and we don’t have the endurance we once had. When our daily tasks become more difficult, we do less. Our bodies adjust to the lower activity and we become weaker.
Reduced muscle mass causes the joints to do most of the work risking damage to the joint.
Our metabolism slows down, giving us less energy and more weight. We replace muscle with fat.
Our muscles also become infiltrated with fat between our muscle fibers, like the marbling on beef. Nice on a steak, but not on us.
Our posture becomes poor, because of weak neck and trunk muscles.
Weaker leg muscles cause poorer balance, leading to falls.
As we age we also lose bone density, leading to osteoporosis. After age 40 women lose bone twice as fast as men. The most critical time is the first five years after menopause. Oh, by the way, men lose bone density too. Just not as fast as menopausal women.
The biggest influence on weight gain in menopause in not hormonal, it is the loss of muscle mass. According to Pamela Peeke, for every pound of muscle lost through disuse, a woman loses the ability to burn 50 calories per day. She state that a 1992 study showed that women who do not strength train lose 7 pounds of muscle every ten years and a reduced metabolism equal to 350 calories per day. Another study showed that this is NOT observed in women who exercise regularly.
Cardio and walking won’t make us strong. We need more.
BENEFITS OF STRENGTH TRAINING
- become stronger
- improve balance
- more energy
- lose weight
- boost metabolism
- increased mobility
- beneficial for high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease
- increase bone density. Not many participating in weight bearing sports get osteoporosis
- aerobic and strengthening exercises are effective for chronic arthritis
- easier to move
- lose inches not pounds
- protects your joints- by strengthening muscles around them
- make aerobic exercise more enjoyable, because stronger muscles make it easier to do
- lift depression
- sleep better
- reduced risk of bone fractures
- reduction of symptom severity in fibromyalgia
- reduces arthritic knee pain
- improved glucose control
- increased self confidence
- feel younger
BUT I”M TOO OLD OR SICK TO START…
No you’re not.
It’s never too late to start exercising. Age doesn’t matter, you can improve at any age. Consider this- physical therapist, Marilyn Moffat, states in one study, men and woman over the age 90 achieved a 200% increase in strength after only 6 weeks on an exercise plan. The weaker you are the more you need it. You are not doomed to be weak and dependent as you age.
A study by William Evans and Maria Fitatarone took 10 nursing home patients between the ages of 86-96 with a least two serious chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Most of them needed walkers or canes and some couldn’t get up from a chair without help. They were taken three times a week to lift weights (at an appropriate starting point and slowly increasing) for 8 weeks. After 8 weeks they increased their strength by 175%. Their walking speed improved by almost 50%. Two didn’t even need their canes anymore. Cool.😎
Read that paragraph again. I don’t know who you are, but I would venture to say you are healthier than a 90 year old in a nursing home, no?
Research has shown that men and women with health conditions are often helped the most by exercise programs that include strength training. It is beneficial even if you are not in great health.
At age 95, Jack LaLanne, who was considered a crackpot for his views on fitness, stated that while he wasn’t as strong or nimble as his younger days, he didn’t feel any different than he did at 25. He was still working out everyday at 95. He was mocked for the idea that people would pay money to go exercise. His ideas aren’t so weird anymore. 😕
You don’t need to spend lots of money or even join a gym. Of course, you can if you want to. This is all my equipment above, just an assortment of dumbbells. You can do so much with them. I also have some DVDs which give me some variety to keep it interesting. As always, there are fun activities that build muscle as well, such as rock climbing, heavy gardening, certain yoga moves, anything that engages your muscles in a strenuous way.
The amount of weight to start with is a trial and error process. Use weights that are challenging. You might even have to start with just your body weight. Lift 70-80% of your maximum weight. Your maximum is the weight you can only do 8 repetitions of. Lifting more than that risks injury and less than that is not effective. If you are over 50, start with a weight that allows 20 reps. If it is not challenging, you will not receive any benefit from it. You need to graduate beyond soup cans.
Muscles work in pairs, you must work both parts of the set, to avoid injury. Don’t work your biceps without working your triceps.
Lower your weights slowly for most development. We have fast and slow muscle fibers, for strength and endurance. For slow-twitch muscle fibers do lower weight with more repetitions. Abs are slow-twitch. For fast-twitch muscles use higher weight with less reps. Thighs are fast-twitch.
Use safety measures to avoid injury. I discuss safety here.
Be sure to check with your doctor before you start any exercise program. If you have an injury or pain, don’t avoid exercising, find out from a physical therapist how to exercise differently. Also keep in mind that soreness and pain aren’t same. You may experience soreness, but you shouldn’t experience pain.