Article by Christine Zellers, Assistant Professor/Educator Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Cape May County, Department of Family and Community Health Sciences Published on August 23, 2022
Strength training or weightlifting has long been thought of as exercises that people do to build very distinguished or large muscles. However, strength training does not necessarily mean weightlifting, it can but there are other exercises that build muscle and create stability in the body that are considered strength training. Americans need to move more and sit less. Sedentary lifestyles contribute to 117 billion dollars annually in health care costs in the United States. Moving now can save money, prevent loss of wages and out of pocket co-pays now and in the future. Always consult your doctor before starting any new exercise routine and inquire about types of strength training that would be appropriate for your fitness level.
When it comes to better overall health, physical activity is likely the most beneficial way to improve chronic disease numbers like cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes or to prevent chronic diseases altogether. The best part of physical activity is it’s never too late to start and coupled with a nutrient dense diet it can be a winning combination for better health. In addition to the minimum recommendation of 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise that adults should engage in weekly, it is recommended that strength training exercises involving all major muscle groups should be done 2 or more days per week. Major muscle groups include legs, hips, chest, back, abdomen, shoulders, and arms. Some examples of how muscle strengthening can assist with preventing chronic disease are type 2 diabetes by decreasing visceral fat in the mid-section, it can enhance cardiovascular health by reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels and even improve bone density. As we age, a strong core or abdominal area and strong legs to support movement can prevent falls and potential debilitating bone damage. Strength training has likewise been linked to lessening back pain and symptoms of fibromyalgia and arthritis while reversing aging factors in skeletal muscles. It has repeatedly been shown to reduce muscle loss which naturally begins to decline at a rate of about 1 percent per year after age 45 making muscle building exercises a critical part of a good exercise routine. Start slow and add in muscle strengthening exercises to support overall health and better aging. Strength training doesn’t need to make sore muscles and variety is important to keep muscles moving and injury free for years to come.
Muscle strengthening activities are those that make your muscles work harder than normal and often don’t require any additional equipment. Using your own body weight as resistance is considered strength training. Pushups and climbing stairs are good examples of bone strengthening exercises that also support harder working muscles. If push ups are too hard or uncomfortable, try a plank or start resistance exercise by doing pushups on the wall and gradually increase intensity to floor pushups. Resistance bands are good for strength training and can be packed in a suitcase and taken on vacation for training anywhere and at any time, plus they are reasonably priced. Free weights and weight machines help to increase muscle density while sit ups and squats can fit into the strength training category as well. Set personal goals for physical activity that include strength training by planning when and what to do but keep in mind that overdoing it won’t feel great so set a reasonable goal to reach. Make strength training a priority to support strong healthy muscles and better longevity for an enjoyable lifestyle.