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Why is strength training so important as we age?

Strength training is when we stress our muscles to tear the muscle fibres at a microscopic level.

Strengthening our muscles is a bit like making porridge, where too much stress (too hot!) can cause the kind of pain that means a trip to the physiotherapist. Not enough stress on the muscle (too cold!) will make no strength improvements.

An example of this is when we do something physical, like mowing the lawns. This activity might give a novice sore muscles, but if you have been mowing the lawns all of your adult life, your muscles have adapted to this activity and there is no meaningful stress on the muscle.

The stress on muscles (and the best porridge) is when it is just right. The right amount of stress placed on muscles causes those muscles to feel achy for the next day or two. The technical term of this muscular achiness is DOMS – which means Delayed Onset Muscular Soreness. DOMS is the healing process for those microscopic tears. The result of this process is that the muscle grows as it heals, and we get stronger.

The good news is that strength training does not have to come dressed in lycra. Neither is it the prerogative of the young!

Three reasons why strength training is vital as we age:

1. Strength training equals bone strength

We lose bone density as we age. And women, with the loss of estrogen at menopause, lose much more than their male counterparts. Brittle bones are much easier to break and are harder to heal. The most effective way to create and maintain strong bones is to regularly engage in strength training.

2. Resting muscle burns fat

Muscles also do something very magical while they are resting – they burn fat. So a nice way to think about the DOMS ache after exercise is that this process is eating away at excess fat stores.

3. Better falls!

No one ever wants to have a fall. However, the statistical chance of having a fall and the consequences of having a fall is magnified with age. Strength training can help build stronger bones and reduce the risk of a break on impact. Strength training can also assist with balance to help avoid falls, and strength training gives us the ability to get up off the ground if we do have a fall.

Remember, strength training does not have to happen in a gym, or just with dumbbells. Strength training can be anything that gives you the right amount of DOMS afterwards. So, if you like going for a walk – include some steps or hills. If you are gardening, try and make your load a little bigger. Or, if you are lifting weights, try and change up either the amount of load or the amount of repetitions.

A little bit of soreness after exercise is exactly what the doctor ordered!

Last updated: September 29, 2021 at: 10:29 am