"Regular physical activity promotes general good health, reduces the risk of developing many diseases, and helps you live a longer and healthier life. For many of us, “exercise” means walking, jogging, treadmill work, or other activities that get the heart pumping.
But often overlooked is the value of strength-building exercises. Once you reach your 50s and beyond, strength (or resistance) training is critical to preserving the ability to perform the most ordinary activities of daily living — and to maintain an active and independent lifestyle.
The average 30-year-old will lose about a quarter of his or her muscle strength by age 70 and half of it by age 90. “Just doing aerobic exercise is not adequate,” says Dr. Robert Schreiber, physician-in-chief at "Hebrew SeniorLife" and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Unless you are doing strength training, you will become weaker.”
What is strength training?
Strength training encompasses any of the following:
How much do you need?
A beginner’s strength-building workout takes as little as 20 minutes, and you won’t need to grunt, strain, or sweat like a cartoon bodybuilder. The key is developing a well-rounded program, performing the exercises with good form and control, and being consistent. You will experience noticeable gains in strength within four to eight weeks along with other health benefits such as increased energy, lower chances of developing insulin resistance and increased blood flow.
Buying your own equipment is one option. Sets of basic introductory-weight dumbbells cost $50-$100. Gyms and Health clubs offer the most equipment choices, but of course you have to pay monthly fees. Books and YouTube video tutorials can help you learn some basic moves but alot of the information can be misleading so it would be a better idea to book in a couple of sessions with a certified trainer or coach as a great way to ensure the exercises are performed correctly and safely to reduce the risk of injury and start developing a routine.
Many senior centers and adult education programs offer strength training classes, as well.
In whichever way you start, take it slow so you don’t injure yourself. Discuss your new exercise plan with your doctor and explain the level of workout you expect to achieve. Mild to moderate muscle soreness between workouts is normal, but back off if it persists more than a few days.
If at any point during exercise the movements do not feel right or you experience abnormal pain, stop immediately. There is nothing to gain from forcing yourself to push through pain only to injure yourself and hinder your ability to train or exercise at all.
Original blog content and information gathered from Harvard Medical School-Healthbeat.
Elyse and Marty