I love walking and running, but I also make sure I’m doing something every week to build and maintain my body’s muscles.
Having more muscle means my body uses more calories, and my joints are stronger and more stable.
A strong upper body means I can lift my suitcase into an airplane’s overhead bin and pick up and carry bags of mulch and potting soil for the garden.
A stronger core means less back pain, and strong legs make it easier to climb stairs and have better balance.
Strength or resistance training should be part of everyone’s fitness routine. There are many ways to incorporate it.
You can use your body weight to do squats and pushups. A “flow” or Vinyasa yoga class is another body-weight option.
You can use hand weights, resistance bands, kettle bells or weight machines. Whatever method you choose should work all parts of the body, but especially the large muscle groups in your shoulders, chest, back, core, hips and legs.
If you’ve never done any of these activities, I would suggest joining a class or working with a personal trainer who can make sure that you are using proper form and don’t injure yourself.
A trainer can also ensure you’re working hard enough to stimulate a change in the muscle. In an effective program, the fibers of the muscle are broken down, and then they repair and reknit themselves to be stronger than they were before the exercise.
Resistance training doesn’t need to be done daily. If you work your muscles hard enough, you want to make sure that you give yourself time for them to repair.
For that reason, many weightlifters will work different parts of their body on different days. You need to work out two to three days a week while building muscle; after that, at least one day a week to maintain what you have.
Speaking of stimulating change, another strength training benefit that’s very important as we age is the effect it has on our bone health. Strength training stimulates bone growth and can be effective in helping to prevent and slow the progression of osteoporosis.
Losing muscle mass as we age has other consequences. It can make it more difficult for us to perform daily activities and remain independent. Strength training can ensure that we don’t need assistance to care for ourselves and our homes.
- Sherry DeWalt is the healthy lifestyles coordinator for the CGH Health Foundation in Sterling.