When we think of exercise, we typically think about aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, jogging or swimming. However, the government’s Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get not only a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity aerobic activity, but also participate in muscle strengthening activities that are moderate or high intensity, involving all major muscle groups on two or more days a week.
Health and Wellness Benefits of Muscle Strengthening
- Weight maintenance
- Improved balance and lower likelihood of falls
- Bone strengthening
- Arthritis relief
- Improved blood glucose control
- Healthier state of mind
Increasing lean body mass through strength training can lead to a significant increase in metabolic rate (up to 15 percent). This means your body will burn more calories at rest and during exercise, a great benefit for anyone trying to lose weight.
Stronger muscles provide added stability. Studies have shown up to a 40 percent reduction in falls in older adults following a simple strength-training program.
Bone responds to load by building more bone. As you engage in strength training in your exercise routine, your body will strengthen the bone to accommodate the added pressure. Strong bones are important as we age to maintain activity and function.
Stronger muscles support and protect osteo-arthritic joints. Strong muscles can also prevent further damage and reduce pain.
For individuals with diabetes, muscle strengthening leads to improvements in blood sugar control.
A strong body leads to a strong mind! Strength training works as well for some as anti-depressant medication.
The FITT Principle
When starting a strength training exercise program, you can follow the FITT principle (Frequency, Intensity, Time, Type) to guide your training.
Ideally muscle-strengthening exercises are performed two times a week.
Exercises that are moderate to vigorous intensity will lead to improvements in muscle strength, tone and mass. A good rule of thumb is, if you can lift a weight more than 12 times with relative ease, it is probably too light. If you are unable to lift it at least six-eight times, it is probably too heavy.
While there are no specific recommendations regarding time spent performing muscle strengthening exercises, a total body workout can be performed by most adults in 30-60 minutes depending on fitness level and experience.
This is where you are free to engage in a strength-training program that fits you. Opportunities to incorporate strength training have exploded! CrossFit is an example of this wave. There are now an estimated 7,000 CrossFit programs nationwide.
The 7-Minute Workout
The 7-Minute Workout is another example; although, its name is a bit deceiving as it is ideally performed three times (so a 21 minute workout). The great thing about the 7-Minute Workout is it requires only a floor, a chair and a wall to achieve a total body strength-training workout. The 7-Minute Workout app is a free download to smart phones.
Whether you go to a gym, follow along with an exercise video, or use an app, there are many options to incorporate strength training into your fitness regimen. The benefits of this type of exercise are significant, and become even more important as we age.