Hand reaching for dumbbell on storage rack with text overlay: Stay Strong: The Benefits of Resistance Training

Stay Strong: The Benefits of Resistance Training

Did you know that after we reach age 50, we start to lose muscle mass? In fact, if you’re a woman, you may lose as much as 7 pounds of muscle per decade. That’s not good news, is it? Although muscle loss is a normal part of aging, there are things we can do to preserve lean body mass and keep our bodies strong throughout our lifetimes. One of those things is resistance training.

What Is Resistance Training?

Resistance – or Strength – training is exercise in which your muscles contract against some type of external resistance with a goal of stimulating muscle development. (1) This “external resistance” could come in several forms:

  • Weight machines – These are the type of resistance machines you may find in a gym. They’re great for beginners because they can help you get started without a huge learning curve.
  • Free weights – These are weights like dumbbells or barbells.
  • Resistance bands – These are bands, kind of like oversized rubber bands, that come in several different resistance levels. I have the Arena Strength resistance bands that are made of a cloth-like material instead of rubber, and I really like them.
  • Body weight – There are tons of resistance exercises you can do with just your bodyweight. Think push-ups, planks, lunges, back extensions, etc….
  • Suspension Trainers – These use a combination of gravity and your body weight to provide the resistance. One popular one, and the one I have, is the TRX suspension trainer.
Row of dumbbells with a hand reaching to pick one up, overlaid with quote: "The resistance that you physically fight in the gym and the resistance that you fight in life can only build a strong character." Arnold Schwarzenegger

Why Is It So Important?

Often we think of resistance training as something that bodybuilders do to build big muscles, but the truth is, big muscles are only a small part of what strength training can do for us. Here are just a few of the benefits:

  • It can help us maintain lean body mass. Strength training can help us fight the loss of muscle mass that occurs with age, and can prevent sarcopenia, “a syndrome characterized by progressive and generalized loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength with a risk of adverse outcomes such as physical disability, poor quality of life and death.” (2)
  • It also helps keep our “power” muscles engaged. This is vital in order for us to maintain the power to move quickly and be agile. That can help us prevent accidents and falls as we grow older.
  • It can help improve our posture. (3) There are many exercises that can help us improve our posture. This can reduce pain and other issues associated with postural problems.
  • Strength training helps strengthen our connective tissues. This can help us avoid injury to our muscles and joints.
  • It can improve metabolic function. Lean tissue burns more calories, even when we’re resting, so the lean tissue we gain from doing resistance exercise can increase our resting metabolic rate.
  • It can help prevent osteoporosis. If you already have osteoporosis, it may help replace some of the bone mineral density you’ve previously lost. When we put stress on our bones, the cells within them respond by making our bones more dense and stronger. In her book Roar, Stacy Sims says, “Numerous studies have shown that postmenopausal women with low and very low bone density see significant bone density gains – improving about 1 percent a year – in the spine and hips, which are areas affected most by osteoporosis, when they participate in a regular strength training routine.” (4)
  • Resistance training can improve our self-esteem. This is due to a couple of things. For one, as we gain self-efficacy (belief in ourselves) as we find we’re able to do these exercises, we start to feel better about ourselves. Secondly, as our body composition changes due to gaining muscle, we may appreciate our bodies more.
  • It can help us sleep better. When we’re exercising our muscles routinely, we tend to sleep better.

With all these benefits, it’s easy to see why resistance training is so critical to our overall wellness, especially as we age.

As we talked about in Starting/Building a Consistent Exercise Habit, it’s important to start small and progress slowly. This is hard – we all want quick results – but it’s more important to establish consistency first. Once you’ve done that, you can add on slowly.

We’ll get more specific about Strength Training in upcoming posts, but if you want to get started right away, you can check out some beginner exercises you can do at ACE Fitness.

Do you include resistance training in your exercise regime? What are some of your favorite strength exercise to do? Please share!

Blessings,

~Terri

Sources:

(1)  ACE Personal Trainer Manual, Fourth Edition, 2010, Cedric X. Bryant, PhD, FACSM, and Daniel J. Green, editors, American Council on Exercise, San Diego, CA.

(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4269139/

(3) https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/resistance-training-health-benefits

(4)  ROAR, How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life, 2016, Stacy T. Sims, PhD, Rodale, New York, NY.

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Light shining on a barbell and set of stainless steel dumbbells, with text overlay: Stay Strong: The Benefits of Resistance Training

6 comments

  1. Great reminders Terri! I currently don’t, but should. I have no excuses since I have everything available to me. Hopefully these reminders will get me to using some of those resources.

  2. Great post, as always, Terri! Exercise, especially strength training, is truly vital to our overall wellness. Thank you for continuing to share educational and uplifting posts. I keep praying for the ability to exercise again… hopefully soon! Never giving up. Simply in a rest period… a really, really long rest.🤣🤪 Blessings, my friend.

    1. Thank you so much Terry! I pray you’ll be able to exercise soon too. It took me a long time to get to the point that I could do anything other than Activities of Daily Living, and I’m definitely still not “there” yet. It seems strength training is the component of exercise that those of us with Fibro, ME/CFS have the most trouble with. It seems to (at least for me and a couple of others who have mentioned it) to cause Post-Exertional Malaise, and when we feel so awful for days after exercising, it’s hard to do it again….Months after being able to start exercising again, I still stick to one set of each exercise, limit the number of different exercises I do, and use my bodyweight or resistance bands. All of that to say, don’t get discouraged sweet friend. Just do what you can do right now, and don’t worry about the rest. Hope you have a wonderful weekend. Sending hugs your way!

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