The Importance of Strength Training
When we think of strength training, we often think of bulked-up dudes lifting more weight in one shot than we do in a week. But this type of exercise has many different levels, and a long list of health benefits that we should consider essential to our well being, (and you don’t need to lift a house to get them.) With appropriate strength training we will see improvement in things like back support, glucose blood levels, balance, and pain management.
Muscle tissue plays an important role in our metabolism, protecting our body’s joints, and improving the way we move. Being stronger makes us feel more secure and expands our capabilities. As we age however, maintaining muscle in the body becomes tougher than in our younger years due to some hormonal changes. This muscle loss can lead lead to a slower metabolism, increased body fat, stiffer joints, and slower reflexes.
But that does not mean we can’t still build muscle and regain strength. In fact it is one of the best things we can do for ourselves to maintain a healthy, injury free lifestyle.
Even if you are inactive or only mildly active, you can recover your healthy lifestyle through exercise and strength training. For seniors, strength training is a key component of staying healthy and provides many benefits.
Strength training is an excellent exercise to combat osteoporosis. Weight-bearing aerobic exercise combined with strength training tells your body to replace bone that has deteriorated. Because you are using your legs to support your body-weight without high impact movements, you will safely build bone density and reduce the symptoms of osteoporosis.
Regular strength training will also improve your balance, coordination, and mobility. These improvements reduce your risk of falling. This will further prevent fractures and other injuries.
Improve Chronic Conditions
Strength training helps reduce the effects of many diseases or chronic conditions that seniors experience. If you have arthritis, for example, regular strength training will help reduce pain and stiffness while increasing your strength and flexibility. The same is true for back pain because strength raining helps your abdominal muscles reduce stress on your spine.
For seniors with diabetes or heart disease, regular exercise like strength training will improve glycemic control and improve your cardiovascular health. Building muscle changes your metabolism and makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight.
Improved Body Composition
Your body composition is about more than how you look. As we age our bodies have a natural tendency to replace muscle with fat. Higher body fat percentage puts you at risk for a variety of chronic illnesses including heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Regular strength training builds muscle which increases your metabolism and helps improve your lipid profile. Our bodies need some fat to protect our organs and function properly. It is when we have too much fat that it builds up in our circulatory system and causes problems. Strength training helps prevent these problems and keeps you healthy as you age.
This is perhaps the most obvious benefit of strength training and the one you will see most clearly. Strength training improves your mobility and helps you retain the full range of motion in your joints. Even if you have experienced a loss of independence due to physical limitations, a strength training program can help you.
Strength training can help you walk farther, reduce the need for assistive devices such as canes or walkers, and enable you to do the activities you love. It also helps with a wide variety of functional movements such as sitting, getting in the bathtub, or using the stairs—all skills essential for daily life.