Riding a bike, hiking in the mountains and walking on the treadmill are all excellent options for aerobic exercise, but did you realize strength training is a cardio option and has many other benefits, particularly as you grow older? Resistance training is a key component of overall health and fitness.
Benefit #1: Revs Up the Engine
We need to use it or lose it. Muscle mass naturally diminishes with age.
If you don’t do anything to replace the lean muscle you lose, you can potentially change your body composition and increase the percentage of fat in your body. Strength training can help you preserve and enhance your muscle mass.
Benefit #2: Restores Balance
As we age, balance and flexibility are challenged. Strengthening exercises, when done properly and executed through the full range of functional movement improve and and increase your flexibility and balance. Stronger balance and flexibility decreases the likelihood and severity of falls, as well as other injuries.
Benefit #3: Strengthen Bones
By stressing your bones, strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis. Women between the ages of 50-70 can lose 1-2 percent of their bone mass annually. Results from a study conducted at Tufts University showed that strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk for fractures.
Benefit #4: Maintains Body Weight
As you gain muscle, your body begins to burn calories more efficiently. Strength training is crucial to weight control. Individuals who have more muscle mass have a higher metabolic rate. Muscle is active tissue that consumes calories while stored fat uses very little energy. Strength training can provide up to a 15 percent increase in metabolic rate, which is helpful for weight loss and long-term weight control.
Benefit #5: Improves Glucose Control
Studies now show that lifestyle changes such as strength training have a profound impact on helping older adults manage their diabetes. Resistance training produces improvements in glucose control that have had similar results to taking diabetes medication.
Benefit #6: Sharpens Emotional and Mental Focus
Research suggests that regular training helps improve attention for older adults. The body feels better when you are stronger and strength training produces a helpful biochemical change in the brain. This promotes improvements in self-confidence and self-esteem, which has a positive impact on overall performance.
Benefit #7: Improves Sleep Quality
People who exercise regularly enjoy improved sleep quality. Benefits include falling asleep more quickly, awakening less often, sleeping more deeply and sleeping longer.
Benefit #8: Creates Healthy Heart Tissue
Heart disease risk is lower when the body is leaner. A study found cardiac patients gained strength, flexibility and aerobic capacity when strength training three times a week as part of their rehab. American Heart Association recommends strength training to reduce risk of heart disease and as a therapy for patients in cardiac rehabilitation programs.
Benefit #9: Relieves Arthritis
Tufts University completed a 16 week strength-training program with older men and women with moderate to severe knee osteoarthritis. Results showed that training decreased pain, increased muscle strength and general physical performance. It also improved the clinical signs and symptoms of the disease. Similar effects of strength training have been seen in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
Consider your options: Strength training can be done at home or in a wellness/fitness center. Common choices include body weight resistance training, resistance tubing, free weights, weight machines, group exercise formats and more recently developed specialized group and private training that utilizes a state-of-the-art kinesis system that incorporates cable resistance.
Whatever your choice, strength training is beneficial by reducing body fat, increasing lean muscle mass and burning calories more efficiently.