Did you know that a study on Disability in old age in the Journal Current Aging Science found that strength was a predictor of disability. There results showed that older adults with low levels of muscle strength were 2.6 times more likely to have a severe mobility limitation, 4.3 times more likely to have a slow gait, and 2.1 times more likely to die.
Interestingly muscle mass was not as strong a predictor of disability as muscle strength. It has been said that fitness is a triad of cardiovascular training, flexibility, and strength training. If you think of a triad as a three-legged stool we can better understand how important each part of fitness is to overall health. I have found that strength training is often the part that is left out as people age because they think that it is for younger people, they are afraid of injury, or “I don’t like gyms”.
The good news is that you do not have to go to a gym to start, you can do strength exercises in the privacy of your home. There are some basics to understand so that you can reduce your risk of injury and get the most out of your workout.
•Train with a balanced body in mind: we are all familiar with the stereotype of the muscular guy that has trouble moving his body due to the stiffness of being “muscle bound”. You can be very muscular and flexible at the same time (I have a seen a Mr. Universe do the splits). When you train a muscle, you must always train the muscle that does the opposite motion. For example, when you do a chest press, you must also do a row which is where you pull your arms inward, or if you do biceps you must do triceps.
•If you are working out at home try starting with bodyweight exercises such as push-ups or squats and a set of bands. You can get exercise bands with handles on the ends that will enable you to easily work every muscle group. There are inexpensive attachments that you can put on a door that allows you to anchor the bands for your exercises. We have these attachments and bands in the office, and you can get them in most sporting goods stores.
•Start by working each muscle group(chest, back, legs, biceps, triceps) twice a week at most. I see many start with good intentions of working out every day, but in strength training you must give the muscle time to rest. Overtraining will prevent you from getting stronger and increase your risk of injury.
•Consider hiring a trainer. I worked as a trainer when I was starting my practice and have seen the difference that a professional can make in your results. I know many great trainers in this area, so feel free to ask me for a referral.
Not only does strength training make you stronger, but if you do put on muscle you will burn more calories all day long which helps you to lower your bodyfat. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.