Monday Means
Brief Interlude

So. Why Weight?

Last week, I introduced you to Claudia . . . who made a compelling case for adding weight training to your fitness activities -- and especially as we age.  I thought I'd piggyback on that post today, with a story and some facts about strength training.


First, a story.

I've been a workout-freak for a very, very long time.  Cardio fitness activities have long been part of my repertoire - jumping, dancing, running, swimming, kicking.  And I did yoga and Pilates to build core strength, flexibility, and balance.  But I was completely uninterested in strength training or lifting weights.  Because . . . boring.  And I didn't want to get "big muscles." And it didn't actually feel like working out to me . . . because you don't really even sweat.  (And I like to sweat when I work out.)

So I ignored the whole strength thing.

And then . . . in December 2011 . . . my mom fell off a counter stool at my house and broke her ankle.  Badly.  She stayed with me at my house for her recovery, and I saw first hand what happens when you age . . . and didn't work on your strength training when you were younger!  My mom had to keep all weight off her injured foot -- which meant using a walker . . . and "hopping."  She couldn't do it!  She didn't have the upper body strength to use the walker to "hop."  (She couldn't hop either, but that's an issue for another day.)

It was a miserable time.  My mom was frustrated and depressed.  Her early physical therapy efforts were completely focused on building her arm muscles so she could use the walker.  It was hard work, and discouraging for her.  Especially because she was in pretty good shape for a woman in her late 70s!  She walked every day and went to the gym regularly, where she swam and took "Zumba Gold" classes.  

She did not, though, do any strength training.

Watching my mom struggle with her lack of strength had me re-assessing my own workout routine.  I decided I needed to work on my strength . . . now . . . before I became that "woman in her late 70s" who was in "pretty good shape."  (And that's when I contacted Claudia.  Because she was the only woman I knew at the time who WAS working on her strength in a serious way.)

Ever since my mom's broken ankle experience, my motivation has been . . . to NOT have that happen to me!

Now, why weight?  (A few facts about muscles and weight training.)

  • As we age, our muscles begin to melt away.  Muscles begin to deteriorate in our 30s.  When we hit 40, we lose an average of 8% of our muscle mass every decade -- and this continues to accelerate even faster after age 60.  Loss of muscle limits mobility, speeds the onset of some diseases, and is linked to premature death.
  • Loss of muscle also has an impact on your bones.  In fact, the factors that help us maintain muscle are the same factors that keep our bones strong and dense.  As we lose muscle with age, our bones become brittle -- leading to osteoporosis, arthritis, fractures, frailty.
  • Most of us just accept that the loss of muscle and bone density just happens as part of aging.  BUT studies show that you can slow and delay these processes by years - even decades - with muscle strengthening programs that work your entire body.  In fact, studies show that adding 2 resistance-training sessions to your workout each week can reverse age-related cellular damage that causes muscle loss and functional impairment.  (Here's a link to the study if you want to get technical.)

And the benefits?

  • Studies are showing that muscle mass is linked to longevity.  There's something called a "muscle index" (muscle mass divided by height squared), and this muscle index is turning out to be a more important predictor of premature mortality than obesity.
  • Resistance training (strength training) improves your cardiovascular health by increasing your blood flow.
  • Skeletal muscle helps regulate and dispose of blood sugar.
  • Muscle acts like a coat of armor against diabetes.  (Something to do with insulin and absorbing glucose, which is too complicated for me to go into here - because I don't understand it to begin with - but if you're interested, let me know and I can send you a link.)
  • Regular strength training - in combination with cardio exercise and eating a healthy diet - can help burn more fat than just cardio and a healthy diet alone.

So.  Strength training twice a week . . . can help you get stronger, live longer, feel better, and burn more fat.
What are you "weighting" for?

(Seriously.  I want to know.  What are your barriers to strength training?)



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I will be honest, I have not been doing enough upper body training for the last two years and I know I need to get back to it. Thanks for the reminder


I've been using hand weights (light - 3 lbs) to do my arm exercises when I work out (combination of those arm exercises, leg exercises and crunches), but I don't really see a difference (except my back looks better when I do those arm workouts). My strength (or really lack thereof) doesn't change. That part is frustrating to me. Perhaps I should try something else?


I've lifted weights (strength training sounds better) twice since your post last week, so I guess I don't have any barriers. John has been nagging me to do it for quite a while, so in addition to strengthening my bones and muscles, strength training has the added benefit of no more nagging. Now all I need to do is keep it up. (That may be the hard part.)


You make a very compelling argument. I've mainly been using some relatively like hand weights (5 lbs.) and my own body weight (for planks and pushups), but I can definitely see the benefit of adding additional strength training. I think what's holding me back is that I'd either need to invest in a lot of equipment, which frankly isn't going to happen, or join a gym in order to use their equipment, and that means an additional expense plus trying to find the time to go. Do you have any tips for easy ways to do strength training at home?

(I will add that since I've been doing my repertoire of exercises every evening, I have started to see muscle definition in my arms, so I must be doing something right!)


I have been doing strength training 2-3 times a week for about 6 years. I turn 65 next month and I feel stronger and have fewer aches and pains than I did when I was 10 years younger. It works!


My barriers were pretty much the same as yours but...that broken arm incident (and super weakness that followed) led me to the gym and the weights and I'll say it forever...that break was one of the best things that ever happened to me! Thanks for this awesome post!


I started weight training about 4 years ago when I started not feeling strong anymore. I use to be able to throw around bags of much and potting soil and then I noticed I struggled. I have definitely seen a huge improvement. I take pride in the fact that at the gym I go to - which is for people 50 and older - I often hear "Let's lower that weight. That's a Karen sized weight". And for the record this gym is amazing! It concentrates on functional movement and the things you tend to lose as you get older - balance, strength, core, etc. It has pushed me outside my comfort zone - heavier weights, TRX, slam balls (my favorite stress reliever), working out in public (gasp!). And while I have not really lost much weight by going there I feel so much better and feel strong again. But your post about being able to hop - not sure I could do that very well. And it isn't because of lack of strength but because of no cartilage in my knees. I am headed for a double knee replacement. But I am told that because the muscles around my knees are strong due to my workouts - hello squats, bridges and wall sits - my recovery will be much easier. I am loving your posts about working out!


I am with Sarah... I'd love some tips/ideas on how to do this at home!

(and you really are a Super Woman!)


And, I am with Kat. I recognize the need for this, but simply do not know how to start, especially in my semi-rural area where there is not an array of gyms and trainers from which to choose. ?? I’m in good aerobic shape, but becoming a faithful walker was just a matter of getting out there and going. Strength training seems very different. Ideas, anyone?


I loved weight training when I did it faithfully and I loved reformer pilates until my joints ached so much I had to stop. It was my favorite exercise ever and it was strength training, but with your own body. I was SO fit and toned. But, the damage to my joints is still with me. I need to get back to weights as it would help with some of my issues. I know walking and swimming are not enough to build muscle.

Carolyn S Thomas

Funny, I've always been the opposite. I could do lat pull downs and dead lifts ALL DAY LONG. I LOVE weights. Cardio was my downfall, because--boring! (to me). But I haven't been challenging myself with the weights (because, like you said, I didn't want to bulk up--which was what actually happened to my thighs compliments of doubling up my step benches in the '90s!) Sometimes I think it's a matter of where you can see a difference quickly--I think we're more inclined to keep at it when we see results ASAP. For me, I saw results with modest weights more quickly than cardio. But now I'm FEELING a difference from cardio, thanks to P90X, and that has quickly become great motivation for me. Loving these fitness posts, Kym! Thanks!


I worked with a personal trainer for a while and my form was corrected enough in various/almost every exercise that I'd be afraid of actually harming my body, instead of helping it, were I to try this on my own. It's a terrible excuse, I know, but I already get up at around 5:30am four days a week just to get to work on time and work until 4 sometimes 5. I'm thankful that I have grandkids to hoist on occasion and that I'm down on the floor and up again all the time... there's my weight training/exercise routine at the moment.

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