Show Me Your Muscles
I love walking and running, but I also make sure I’m doing something every week to build and maintain the muscles in my body overall. Having more muscle means my body uses more calories and that my joints are stronger and more stable. A strong upper body means I can lift my own suitcase into the overhead bin on an airplane and pick up and carry bags of mulch and potting soil for the garden. A stronger core means less back pain and strong legs make it easier to climb stairs and to have better balance.
“Strength” or “resistance” training should be a part of everyone’s fitness routine and there are many ways to incorporate it. You can use your own body weight to do squats and push-ups. A “flow” or Vinyasa yoga class is another body weight option. You can use hand weights, resistance bands, or kettle bells. You can use weight machines. Whatever method you choose should work all parts of the body but especially the large muscle groups in your shoulders, chest, back, core, hips, and legs.
If you’ve never done any of these activities, I would suggest joining a class or working with a personal trainer who can make sure that you are using proper form and do not injure yourself. They can also ensure that you are working hard enough to stimulate a change in the muscle. In an effective program, the fibers of the muscle are broken down and then they repair and reknit themselves to be stronger than they were before the exercise.
Resistance training does not need to be done every day. On the contrary, if you work your muscles hard enough, you want to make sure that you give yourself time for muscles to repair. Many weightlifters will work different parts of their body on different days for that reason. You will need to work out 2-3 days a week while you are building muscle; after that at least one day a week to maintain what you have.
And speaking of stimulating a change, another benefit of strength training that’s very important for us as we age is the effect that it has on our bone health. Strength training stimulates bone growth and can be effective in helping to prevent and slow the progression of osteoporosis.
Losing muscle mass as we age has other consequences. It can make it more difficult for us to perform daily activities and to remain independent. Strength training can ensure that we don’t need assistance to care for ourselves and our homes.