Adding Resistance Training to Your Workout Routine
By: William Neumeier, PhD
Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass, muscle quality, and strength that occurs with aging. This loss of muscle mass and muscle quality usually begins between your 30s and 40s. The decrease of muscle mass typically accelerates around age 75. Unfortunately the loss of muscle mass and muscle quality is another side effect of the aging process. Loss of muscle mass and muscle quality is also associated with frailty, risk of falls, and other negative outcomes.
Though decreases in muscle mass and muscle quality may be an inevitable part of growing older, we can still exercise to maintain or improve strength. Many of us think of “cardio” style exercise (e.g., walking, hand cycling, running, etc.) as the primary form of exercise, but resistance training is also extremely important. In fact, resistance training may be even more beneficial as we age. In addition to offsetting decreases in muscle mass and combating age related sarcopenia, resistance training has been demonstrated to improve quality of life, activities of daily living, cardiovascular outcomes, metabolic outcomes, and more.
When we think of resistance training, most of us probably think about lifting heavy weights. We may envision characters such as Jack Lalanne, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and other individuals with large biceps. The thought of resistance training may invoke images of strain, grunting, and other teeth gritting moments. Risk of injury also becomes a concern associated with resistance training. However, resistance training can be so much more. Exercising in a pool can be a form of resistance training; increasing the slope or difficulty on a treadmill, elliptical, or hand cycle could also provide resistance. Even just pushing as hard as you can against an immovable object, such as a wall, is a form of resistance training known as an isometric muscle contraction. Here are some other ideas on how to incorporate resistance training into your workout routine:
• Use your own body weight to provide resistance, this can include push-ups, squats, and core exercises.
• Push against a hard to move object. Place your hands or feet against a difficult to move object and then try to move it. It’s ok if it doesn’t move; you’re still using your muscles.
• Hike with a backpack or other load; or swim with extra resistance.
• Perform static holds, such as squatting with your back against a wall or raising one arm or leg and holding it still as long as you can.
• Utilize resistance bands. Bands can also be looped around railings and other solid objects to provide a point of resistance.
There is nearly an endless array of options for resistance training. If you’re unsure, consult with a fitness professional for ideas. Always be careful to take precautions to avoid injury. Again, resistance training provides a large number of benefits. Resistance training will help you burn calories and keep those muscles functioning at a high level. By incorporating resistance training into your weekly routine, you will be able to offset some of the effects of aging and maintain your health throughout the years.