Ronnie Coleman is an 8-time Mr Olympia champion. He lifted weights six days per week, ate six meals per day, and now walks with crutches. 800 pound squats can do that. He trained for performance and the results are obvious. My journey was different. I didn’t train for performance, and as a result my peak was playing on the MCG as a scrawny 12 year old. If you think the last sentence is a shameless reliving of past glory, trust your instincts.
However, exercising for performance and exercising for health are different.
Most of us share a simple aim; To navigate the environments we encounter in an independent and agile manner, for as long as possible.
Environments and activities of choice will differ. For some it is running, for others playing tennis, and for many it will be to rise from a chair without assistance.
In our last newsletter I introduced a framework to help ensure you can do whatever it is you want to do for as long as possible.
The framework comprises four pillars:
– Strength (you need it to move)
– Aerobic efficiency (how long you can move)
– Anaerobic capacity (how fast can you move)
– Stability (moving with agility and control)
Today we talk strength.
Muscle is important. While its most obvious role is to move our joints, it is also critical for maintaining metabolic health. However as we age we lose muscle size and strength. Between the ages of 40 and 65 – if you do nothing – your muscle strength will decline by around 20%. After that, the decline continues at a rate of 2-3% per year.
Why does that matter?
Two main reasons:
1. The weaker you are the less agile you are, and once strength declines sufficiently we start to lose balance, our stride length shortens, and we begin to stoop. We begin to use bannisters to climb stairs and chair arms to rise from sitting. We become less independent, and for reasons unknown people begin calling us ‘Dear’.
2. Muscle accounts for over 50% of our body mass, and is highly metabolically active. It removes glucose (sugar) from our blood and mitigates the risks of developing a range of diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. The more muscle is exercised, the lower the risk of metabolic disease. Metabolic disease = lower life expectancy.
So how do I improve or maintain muscle strength?
Resistance training builds muscle at all ages. Muscle has an incredible ability to adapt and regenerate, but it requires regular effort. To build muscle we must push or pull against resistance that we find difficult. Often.
There are many ways to incorporate resistance training into your life and not everyone needs a gym membership to do it. A simple regime of exercises including squats, press ups, and lifting will cover all muscle groups and can be implemented easily at home.
For those with phobias of gyms or trainers, I’ve created a simple home based regime that will help get you started. You can find it here. Importantly, big improvements can be made even for those starting in their 90’s.
How often should you do resistance training?
It depends on your aims. For the purposes of mitigating age related decline, twice weekly is probably enough so long as your sessions are challenging and you address the other pillars (more on these next time) throughout the week.
Consider exercise a form of ‘health saving’. Consistency is the key with benefits compounding over years. The bigger your ‘health account’ the better you can manage unpredictable shocks, and the more able you are to remain active and independent in the future.
If you need more guidance, have pain, or other underlying health concerns preventing you from exercising, then book a session with one of the team. Appointments can be made with the team online, by email, or on 02079371628