Strength training, also known as progressive resistance exercise, is a safe and effective way to improve your health, regardless of age. In fact, research has continued to support that strengthening is safe and effective for older adults*.
The benefits are far greater than simply improving aesthetic appeal (though this is a favorable side effect). They include:
- Counteracting age-related declines in muscle strength and function
- Increased muscle strength and power to help maintain or improve function, reduce disability, and maintain independence
- Increased bone mineral density, helping to combat osteopenia and osteoporosis
- Reduced fall risk
- Reduced risk of serious injury if a fall should occur due to improved tissue and bone health
- Improvements in psychological health, cognitive function, and sense of well-being
All of these add up to an increase in healthy lifespan and overall quality of life!
Despite all of these benefits, it can still feel intimidating to get started on a strengthening program. Strength training induces fatigue and muscle soreness, both of which can be uncomfortable and discouraging for a novice. However, with repeated training sessions over several weeks, you will find that such discomforts will give way to boosts in energy and improvements in function. Likewise, the soreness that occurs early on will typically improve and become less severe as your body adapts.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Anything is better than nothing. Start small and gradually build the amount and intensity of exercise. Strengthening 2-3 days per week is adequate to make improvements.
- Muscle soreness that begins the day after you exercise and persists for 2-3 days is normal and necessary to build strength. Don’t worry, the soreness will pass!
- Keep it simple. Many of the best exercises are those that have withstood the test of time including squats, push-ups, lunges, biceps curls, and arm raises.
- Have fun! Get friends and family involved, track your progress in a journal, or follow along with a YouTube video to keep things interesting.
If you need help developing a program, our staff at Harbor Physical Therapy can help you get on your way to a stronger, more resilient body!
*One caveat to the above: if you have a medical condition, orthopedic injury, or are generally uncertain about the safety of strength training for you, be sure to consult a medical professional before beginning a program.
Written by Dr. Scott Newberry