We all know that exercise is good for us, and most of us have even heard that lifting weights is good for you too. (In fact, did you know the WHO recommendations for MINIMUM levels of physical activity for adults is 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercises per week PLUS 2 strengthening exercise sessions per week).
If the world health organisation thinks the minimum amount you should be doing is twice a week, that’s a pretty good reason.
But here are 5 physio related reasons why you should be doing strengthening training:
1. It reduces your risk of injury
Research has consistently shown that strengthening training significantly reduces your risk of injury on the sporting field. In fact, strength training has been shown to reduce your risk of non-contact injuries by around 50%!
Strengthening improves resilience and robustness in your muscle and tissues, and also makes you more resilient to external forces. From muscle strains to ligament injuries such as ACL injuries – Strengthening works!
2. Strengthening reduces pain
It may sound counterintuitive, but strength training and loading can actually help reduce your pain. Particularly for people with arthritis, loading and strengthening has been shown to be very effective in reducing joint pain.
This also goes for people with tendinopathies (such as Achilles or patellar tendons, and hip pain like bursitis). Loading and strengthening the tendons can be very effective to reduce pain but also promote adaptation and healing within the tissues.
Best practice recommendations for the treatment of arthritis and tendon problems both include targeted specific loading (read – strengthening) exercise as a primary treatment. If you have these issues and you haven’t been given exercise to do, you need to see someone who can help you with that!
3. It makes your bones (and other tissues) stronger
Many people by now have heard that lifting weights is good for osteoporosis. The reason is that your body requires load to respond and adapt. We’ve all heard that if “you don’t use it, you lose it” when it comes to muscle strength, but the same goes for your bones and other tissues.
All our tissues need load on them to stay strong and healthy. Without the load, our tissues get weaker (it’s the reason astronauts get osteoporosis AND lose muscle mass – no gravity means no load
on the body). The converse it true – appropriate loading helps your bones and other tissues adapt and get stronger over time.
4. You’re less likely to die!
(What a headline, right?). This more goes for seniors, but research has shown there is a strong correlation between higher levels of lean muscle mass in your body and a reduced overall 5-year mortality.
What this means is if you have higher levels of muscle mass, you’re actually less likely to die within the next 5 years.
Higher levels of muscle mass mean you should be stronger, and less frail. It also usually means you are more mobile and independent, and less likely to suffer a fall. It usually would also indicate you participate in more physical activity. All these things essentially keep you younger!
For this reason, I strongly believe that all seniors should be doing some sort of strengthening exercises (along with balance and aerobic exercise)
5. It makes life easier
If you are stronger, then everything you lift and carry (including yourself) will be easier to move in comparison. From carrying in the shopping, to walking up flights of stairs, making all your daily tasks easier will certainly make you feel better.
This again goes particularly for seniors. As we naturally lose muscle as we age (a process called sarcopenia) it is more important to try and maintain strength and function. If we get to a point where our normal tasks (such as lifting the laundry basket) are actually the heaviest things we can lift, we are going to be exhausted all the time.
So get started!
If you need direction find a gym (or exercise facility) with qualified experts who can guide you and direct you in what to do and how to do it. Many people are intimidated by gyms because they don’t know what to do, and they feel out of place. So find someone to help you.
Our physios and exercise physiologist would be more than happy to assist you with identifying your needs and developing a program (and guiding you through it) should you need.