It’s Never Too Late
If you spend much time in a gym over the years, I am sure you probably have heard the phrases “go heavy or go home” and “no pain no gain”. As an older adult the thought of adding more pain to my life is not that appealing. So I was excited that the most recent studies show that even doing light weights in a full range of movement is just what the doctor ordered. The American College of Sports Medicine believes that strength training is the most important exercise for older adults who aren’t fit, and that it should come before aerobic exercise, not afterward, which is typically the case. Think about it adults lose between 5 to 7 pounds of muscle every 10 years after age 20! Strength training is the only thing that can prevent that muscle loss from happening. By doing nothing our muscles weaken and this decline can eventually rob us of our active and independent lifestyles. I don’t know about you but I am not about to let that happen.
The beautiful thing is it is never too late to start. You don’t have to join a gym to lift weights- soup cans, dumb bells, resistance bands or even milk jugs can create all the resistance your muscles need. You may find an exercise group that makes it more fun, being social is also important to our mental health. But either way check with your doctor before you start any exercise programs.
Strength training just might be the fountain for youth we are looking for!
Strength Training: Progression/Adaptation
When it comes to Strength Training, it is definitely Quality over Quantity. You get the best results from strength training when your muscles are stressed and then allowed to rest and adapt to the stress. It is important to understand that you do not have to do as much as the muscle can do, you just need to do more that they are used to doing. In other words you don’t have to lift as much as you can every time, you just have to lift more than you normally lift.
Strength Training is about progression and adaptation. The progression part means doing a little more that you have done in the past. The adaptation part comes by allowing the muscle to adapt to the new level of stress. In my years of being involved with strength training, I’ve seen two different types of incorrect lifters. There are the people who constantly increase the resistance without allowing for adaptation. This usually leads to injury and burn out. Then there are the people who never increase the resistance and don’t allow for progression. This limits the improvement to the level of resistance they use. The key is the balance between progression and adaptation.
A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to handle the resistance with moderately hard effort for 3 consecutive workouts before you increase. You should never go more than 12 workouts without attempting to increase the resistance. Eventually you will increase to a resistance that you are not ready for. You need more time to adapt. Go for another 12 workouts, but make sure you challenge yourself to increase when those 12 workouts are done. If you find that you have plateaued and cannot increase, then it may be time to change your workout routine. But that is in the future and a topic for another blog.
Many times when we think about strength training (physical exercise specializing in the use of resistance to induce muscular contraction, such as lifting weights), we think about body builders like Arnold Schwarzenegger or football players. However, what we should be thinking about is life! It is our muscles that keep us moving. Our heart that keeps us alive. Our joints that keep us flexible. Our bones that keep us standing. Our lungs that keep us breathing and laughing. These are all parts of our body that can be supported or improved with strength training. Moving better through space increases our quality of life. It allows us to do more with less effort. This benefits us both at work and at play.
We hear so much about body weight in regards to enjoyment of life. However, I believe it is more important how you move the body weight. I have seen people who are very thin, but they have a hard time carrying in the groceries, due to their lack strength. I have also known people who are carrying too much body fat, yet it has not compromised their quality of life. As a result of strength training, they have enough strength to move the extra weight.
I am not saying we shouldn’t work to attain or stay near our ideal weight. After all, good weight or bad weight it is still weight and is hard on the joints. What I am saying we should pay equal attention to strength training, because quality of life is the true aim of a health routine.
I remember weights called Heavy Hands in the 80's. They were these funky looking 3 to 5 pound weights with handles. People were looking to add intensity to their walks and get fit faster. Wow some things never change, it is just human nature to look for the quick fix.
The thing I remember most was hearing about the injuries that occurred from carrying the weights. That appears to still be the problem with combining walking and weights. Studies show that you can burn up to 20% more calories walking with hand weights or ankle weight- unfortunately that only works out to adding 5 extra minutes to your walk. The risk of injuring your joints is not worth 5 minutes is it? Let's just walk a little further or faster.
Think about it, most of us walkers are trying to reduce the stress on our joints- otherwise we would all be runners. So how crazy would it be to add weights to a stress free workout. The added stress on your joints and muscles from holding the weights only increases your risk for injury. Especially as you get tired and lose your good walking form. Walking with ankle weights drastically increases your risk for knee injuries so don't even think about wearing those.
I am a firm ( get that) believer in strength training with weights. Weight training strengthens bones, increases your calorie burn and metabolism and makes everyday life easier. But let's plan on a little extra time walking and then lift weights. You are worth it! Stay healthy.