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?)