The Importance of Strength Training as we Age
By: Anne-Marie Gabrini
It’s no secret that living a healthy lifestyle is what promotes a long and robust life.
Current research has demonstrated that strength-training exercises have the ability to combat weakness and frailty. Done regularly (e.g., 2 to 3 days per week), these exercises will;
· Increase strength & muscle mass
· Preserve bone density, independence and vitality with age
· Reduce the risk of osteoporosis & chronic diseases like heart disease, arthritis & type 2 diabetes
· Increase sleep quality & reduce depression
Not convinced? Read on.
Let’s start with the basics. Incorporating a fitness program into your daily routine that combines a wide variety of functional movements, is going to benefit your life in all areas.
What are functional movements?
Functional movements are movements that are based on real world situational biomechanics. For example;
1. Squats – Comparable to sitting / standing.
2. Lunging – A vital movement pattern that has a good transfer to walking and stair climbing.
3. Hinging / Deadlifting – An excellent exercise to strengthen the posterior chain, it is also the most functional of daily movements (ex: picking up a toddler, or a heavy bag of groceries).
In addition to strength training it is also important to take a comprehensive approach to your exercise regime by targeting areas like mobility, balance, and flexibility. All of the above help with preventing injury by strengthening muscles and connective tissue.
Let’s talk body Composition and muscle mass;
Strength training helps with body composition. Period! For example, an effective strength training program can help increase lean body mass, lower your BMI (Body Mass Index), enhance muscular and cardiorespiratory endurance, as well as increase your body’s metabolic rate. This last point is especially important because, as we age, one’s metabolism will naturally decline about 1-2% per decade. The good news is, by strength training a minimum of 2x week you can reverse approximately 50% of the metabolic slowdown that comes with age. Huge bonus!
Furthermore, At the age of 30 you begin to lose muscle mass, up to 5% per decade. Yikes! Men will likely lose more than women (approx. 30% of their muscle mass over their lives), likely due to hormonal factors. A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology
(**see below for source) found that adults ages 61 to 77 years of age were able to add about 4. 5lbs of muscle, increase strength by 36%, and boost their resting metabolism by nearly 7% after six months of strength training.
SO, how do you go about getting started with strength training?
A well-rounded training program:
Research indicates that upper-body, lower-body and midsection strength training all contribute to improved overall performance and quality of life. A well-rounded program will include exercises that involve all of the major muscle groups.
Here are some examples of exercises to incorporate into your routine:
• Lower body: By strengthening your legs, you will improve agility and balance, meaning you’ll be more limber, and likely avoid injuries. Some of my favourite exercises are variations of squats such as front rack, back rack, dumbbell / barbell, and thrusters. Other great lower body exercises are deadlifts, calf raises, stability ball leg curl, box step ups or jumps, weighted lunges, and Bulgarian split squats.
• Core: Many of our daily movements require our abdominal and back muscles to fire up in order to stabilize our spine. Some great movement patterns to focus on are different variations of planks which require involvement from all abdominal muscles (rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus and the external obliques). Other great core exercises include “supermans”, and “deadbugs”. Google these and get that core burning.
• Upper body: Having a strong upper body controls your ability to perform everyday activities such as reaching, pulling, pushing and lifting. It also helps improve flexibility, mobility and range of motion. Some upper body movements to focus on are different progressions of push ups, overhead presses, and any variation of a pull up.
So what are you waiting for? Here are a few tips to get your started:
• Aim for a minimum of 2 strength training sessions a week (30-40 mins each)
• Focus on 3-5 exercises per session
• Perform 6-8 repetitions per exercise for 3-4 sets
• If your form is consistently good, don’t be afraid to add more weight
• Research suggest that long slow repetitions are a good way to load the tendon to promote positive changes in tendon thickness and health
The key is to learn to enjoy strength training and its benefits, be consistent, and the results will come.
Stay fit. Stay healthy.
About the Author: Get Fit with AM
Anne-Marie is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Personal Trainer through the NSCA, a Crossfit Level 1 Trainer, a Pre and Post Natal Coaching Specialist, and a certified Precision Nutrition Coach. She lives in Aurora with her husband, and two young daughters.