You may be hitting your goal of 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day. But are you preventing the natural muscle loss that comes with age?
Olga Hays, an American Council on Exercise-certified wellness promotion specialist at Sharp HealthCare, explains the reason why you shouldn’t overlook resistance training.
“As we age, we naturally start losing muscle mass and function,” says Hays. “Loss of muscle can lead to weight gain, general loss of physical energy, vulnerability to disease, slower metabolism, less mobility and accelerated aging.”
“The good news is that muscle tissue can regenerate and muscle loss can be reversed,” she says. “One way to prevent muscle loss as you age is to incorporate resistance training into your fitness routine.”
Benefits of resistance training
Resistance training is any exercise that makes your muscles work against some type of force that resists your movement. The goal is to increase strength, tone, mass and anaerobic endurance.
A well-rounded fitness program that includes resistance training at least two times a week can provide physical and health benefits, including:
- Improved bone and joint function
- Lower blood pressure
- Prevention of osteoporosis
- Increased muscle, tendon and ligament strength
- Improved mobility and balance
- Improved posture
- Decreased risk of injury
In addition, resistance training can help you lose or manage weight and increase your muscle-to-fat ratio. Muscles are an active tissue requiring constant energy to maintain. As you increase your lean muscle mass, your resting metabolism increases as well and you burn more calories all day long.
How to incorporate resistance training
Resistance training usually incorporates free weights, weight machines, resistance bands or tubes — or even one’s own body weight. In the early phases of resistance training, practicing new movements and exercise patterns with lighter weights is crucial for proper form and maximum safety.
A beginner’s program should rely on machines — the easiest kind of equipment to use. As you progress in your resistance training, you can graduate to heavier weights and more challenging movements that incorporate free weights such as barbells and dumbbells. You can also add resistance bands or numerous equipment-free, resistance-training options, such as push-ups, squats, planks, hip lifts and dips.
“No other single activity has more of a positive impact on your physical and mental health as resistance training,” says Hays. “And the great thing is that we don’t need to spend endless hours at the gym to reap the benefits of resistance training. An average person can see significant improvements in their strength and physical appearance with just two to three 30-minute resistance training sessions a week.”
As always, it’s important to consult with your doctor, exercise physiologist, physiotherapist or registered exercise professional prior to starting a new resistance training program.