Benefits of Strength Training

You might think that working up a sweat on your walk is all you need to whittle away the pounds. But what you do when you’re not walking might actually have more impact. While your aerobic amble may battle the bulge by burning calories, your brawn boosts metabolic efficiency. Muscle eats up energy to feed its fibers, even when it’s not being taxed, while fat sits idle. The result: stronger muscles help your body maximize weight loss potential by burning more calories, during and in between workouts — up to 15 times more than fat.

Stronger Grip, Better Footing

As if dropping pounds weren’t enough, bolstering strength has other advantages, too. In addition to protecting joints and connective tissue, strength exercises actually make bones stronger, which generates greater stability and balance — critical components in injury prevention. In fact, a New Zealand study found that women over age 80 had 40% fewer falls when they engaged in strength and balance exercises. And according to a Tufts University study, men and women suffering from arthritis improved their dexterity and experienced up to a 43% reduction in pain just by incorporating strength training into their week.

And since a more robust muscle requires less oxygen to perform effectively, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard during high levels of activity — good news for your ticker, which on average clocks around 100,800 beats every day.

411 on Building Brute Force

Increasing your might requires you add weight to your workout, which can be accomplished several ways. Studies show that many people, especially seniors, often shy away from strength training because of the equipment involved. But adding weight doesn’t always mean using dumbbells. Classic weight-bearing exercises like squats and push-ups use your body mass as the force your muscles must work against.

And while free weights and equipment can be reliable options at any age, you can increase your muscle mass with other props — such as elastic bands. They’re divided into colors that reflect level of stiffness, with yellow typically falling on the lower end and silver on the highest. But you can also combine bands to increase resistance.

Mimic the chest press by lying on the floor with the center of the band under your back and alternating arms as you press up to the ceiling and back. Put a spin on squats by standing on a band in its center with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding the ends with both hands, and squatting up and down against the force of the band. When you’re done, you can perform bicep curls using the same body position and band placement (you might want to change bands, though).

Bands are also ideal physical therapy companions, helping strengthen and reinforce injured or weakened body parts like ankles and wrists.

Remember that building muscles is actually rebuilding broken down tissues. The goal is to fatigue the area you’re targeting with enough weight and repetitions so you struggle without sacrificing proper technique. Experts advise a variety of exercises vs. multiple sets of the same exercise, so mix up your workout with an array of activities to capitalize on the synergy of your muscle groups. A great starting point for seniors or newcomers to strength training is the National Institute on Aging Exercise and Physical Activity Guide, which provides basic exercises and equipment suggestions.

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