In my 30+ years as a fitness professional during which strength training has been the mainstay of my career, I have experienced much “resistance” to resistance training from all sides, whether from women who don’t want “muscles” to men who “just want to do cardio.” Others play sports for fitness or have active jobs and feel this is sufficient exercise for them.
Having trained many others who realize the benefits of strength training, I have seen why people want to do it change over the years. Toning, weight loss, and body sculpting were the predominant reasons clients came to me. It seemed to change in the mid-aughts when people were looking for help for issues that are common with desk-bound jobs and long commutes. Back pain, upper and lower. Weak core, and lack of upper body strength. Today, people are concerned with aging and avoiding disease, injury, and frailty.
Based on my experience, I believe that strength should be the basis of all fitness activities. It will benefit almost all well into later life and help with a host of age-related conditions.
There are so many benefits that can be gained from resistance training, and most of them cannot be obtained from any other form of exercise. The most well-known include:
- Improved ability to carry out activities of daily life - once challenging tasks become easier and can be noticed in everyday activities such as carrying groceries.
- Reversing sarcopenia - muscle loss begins in your mid-twenties and declines rapidly thereafter unless physical activity is maintained.
- Improve and maintain bone density - Because of the direct effect muscles have on the bones (by pushing and pulling against them and providing a type of stress that stimulates bone growth1), osteopenia can be reversed by resistance training, in conjunction with other therapies, in a way that walking or other activities cannot.
- Preventing falls and injuries - a thorough training program can correct imbalances, such as weak gluteal muscles, or weak upper back vs. overly strong hip flexors/tight pectoral (chest) muscles. This causes compensation during movements that over time, can result in injuries.
Some of the benefits that you may not know of include:
- Increased mobility - feeling stiff, slow to move? Increasing muscle strength will help you move better and feel more confident. You might find yourself picking up the pace!
- Better stability - the ability to hold yourself up and bolster yourself against falls and accidents.
- Posture - strengthening the weaker muscles that hold you (back, core, and upper back) will help you stand tall, avoiding that hunched-forward posture that only becomes more noticeable with age.
- Anti-inflammatory effect - When stimulated, as during resistance training, Myokines, key regulators that besides their positive effect on inflammation, also work with metabolic modulation and immunity, are released2.
All of the above are beneficial to all ages, particularly for older adults. It really is never too late.
I know that one concern that holds people back is a fear of injury. In reality, it is much safer (when done properly) than not doing it and then slowly losing your quality of life. Some tips for starting safely include:
- Start slowly and methodically - learn proper form and technique before you attempt to try a new exercise or machine. Use a moderate amount of weight at first until you master this.
- Avoid excessive repetitions and sets - overdoing it could set you back. This is what causes pain and injury more than using slow, considered movement and a moderate range of motion (not overstretching or locking out at joints).
Strength is your friend for life and anyone can gain it with a little training!
In case you missed the other Fall '23 Newsletter Articles: