I hate to sound like a broken record, but it really is crucial to incorporate lifting weights into your workout regimen. In fact, when it comes to exercise for older adults, strength training actually trumps cardio because preserving muscle is more important than losing fat as you age.
Every decade, starting in your mid 30s, you lose a percentage of muscle, which affects your metabolism, balance, and ability to brace yourself in the event of an injury. By weight training, you build more muscle to protect your body against injury.
So, how often should you lift weights?
Ideally, two to three times a week—whether you lift free weights, use machines, or do body weight exercises.
Wondering which muscle groups to focus on? Reed says that depends on your goals. For a full body workout, “many trainers will tell clients to focus on the upper body one day and the lower body a couple days later,” she says. To help you get the most bang for your buck, consider folding in compound exercises and supersets into your routine, a form of strength training in which you move from one exercise to the next with no rest in between.
In addition to building strength, lifting weights has a host of benefits. Keep reading to learn all the reasons you should pick up a pair of dumbbells (or kettlebells, or dare we say, a barbell) today.
You’ll lose weight and burn more calories
While cardio can help you get rid of belly fat, lifting weights helps you build more muscle, which can also help you burn more calories. That’s because muscles are metabolically active, meaning they burn calories even when you’re not exercising.
When weight loss occurs in the absence of strength training, all facets of body composition are lost. You lose some weight in fat, some in muscle, and some in bone—and it’s unfavourable to lose weight that’s coming from both muscle and bone. That’s why strength training is so important.
You’ll protect your bones
As you age, your bones become more brittle and weaker. Lifting weights can help you build bone mineral density through Wolff’s Law, which states that bones can grow in response to forces that are placed upon it. In other words, creating pressure on your joints through weight-bearing exercises can actually help you build stronger, healthier bones.
Strength training involves muscles contracting against the bones they’re surrounding. This force applied to the bones helps improve bone density overtime.
You’ll manage stress and boost your mood
Just like any form of exercise, strength training can enhance your mood by releasing feel-good hormones called endorphins.
Recent research also suggests that exercise, including weight training, may help protect against Alzheimer’s and dementia.
You’ll improve your posture
If you have a desk job, chances are you’re dealing with a case of rounded shoulders and a hunched back, which places additional pressure on your low back. This can lead to bad posture and limited range of motion in the shoulders, which are the most flexible joint in the body.
But lifting weights can help reverse this by opening up the chest, strengthening the back muscles, and improving freedom of movement. It also strengthens your core, which keeps the back in alignment and upright.
Go for multi-joint compound exercises (think a squat to overhead press or a lateral lunge to twist), which can help you work in different planes of motion and muscle groups, saving you time and effort.
You’ll reduce back pain
There’s no one reason for back pain, but muscular imbalances, like weak knees and an unstable core, can contribute, among other things. Most people think aches and pain are due to strains, but sometimes, it’s a result of bad biomechanics. Your muscles work in a kinetic chain, so if there’s a weak link, it can often manifest into a bigger problem in different areas of the body. But by building total-body strength, you can bypass most injuries.
For example, if you have weak hip flexors, it also means you have weak glutes—their opposing muscles. Typically the muscles don’t weaken evenly, so this can also throw your pelvis out of whack, which could affect your gait. As weak and tight muscles tug and pull, they can cause imbalances and pain, which is your body telling you that something is wrong.”
You’ll improve memory and brain health
Physical activity can help prevent or delay cognitive decline in people over 50, regardless of their current neurological state.
When you’re moving, your body pumps oxygen-rich blood to your brain, boosting your brain’s ability to create new neural connections and adjust to changes in environment. By improving these connections, you can better handle stressful situations that come with life and stay sharp.
You’ll be better in tune with your body
There’s nothing like lifting a pair of weights to help you tune into your senses when you work out. Whether you’re doing an overhead press, a plank row, or a goblet squat, lifting weights creates greater awareness around using your breath to help you get the most out of each rep. Plus, doing complex moves can test your listening and cognitive skills—it takes some brain power to process a trainer’s cues and execute a move properly!
If you have any questions, just send me a message.
If you are interested in a program to increase your fitness, lose weight, increase muscle or improve any aspect of wellbeing such as mobility and flexibility, I can design a program specific to your needs via my Online Personal Coaching Program.
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