Strength training goes a long way in terms of supporting bone health, making aerobic exercise more productive, preventing injury and facilitating healthy ageing. No matter your age or athletic ability, strength training helps with flexibility and improved performance by using opposing force to build strength across your body and increase your muscle mass.
What is strength training?
This is also known as weight or resistance training. It is a form of physical activity designed to improve muscular strength and fitness by exercising a specific muscle group against external resistance. It is based on functional movements: lifting, pushing and pulling, in order to build muscle and coordination needed for everyday activities.
It is recognised that the ageing process begins when we hit 40 and when we reach 50 ageing starts to affect three important systems directly and progressively:
The musculoskeletal system:
This is one aspect of physical health and consists of 3 components: muscular strength, endurance, and flexibility. Musculoskeletal conditions can cause pain, stiffness and often inflammation in one or more joints or muscles. Regular exercise can reduce some of these symptoms and improve your joint mobility and strength.
The cardiovascular system:
Regular strength training can lower blood pressure and improves overall cardiovascular health by strengthening the heart and blood vessels. Combining aerobic and strength exercises improves our muscles’ ability to extract oxygen from the blood which means our heart doesn’t have to work so hard to pump blood to the muscles.
The neuromuscular system:
The control of the muscles via specialised nerves. Addresses the quality of movement and emphasises joint control in all three movement planes.
By keeping active or by increasing activity the impact of this progressive degradation is limited or in some cases “put on hold”.
Recent studies have looked at how strength training such as press ups and ab curls can help to curb the progress of degradation.
People who do not engage in any sort of strength training will lose 40–50% of their muscular strength by the age of 65. Some people will become so weak that performing everyday activities becomes hard work or even impossible.
Recent studies suggest that one of the easiest ways to keep mobile is to work on existing strength. In most people, the strongest muscles are found in the legs – quads, hamstrings, calves and glutes.
By improving our current strength in the most used groups of muscles it is possible to make everyday tasks like opening jars or getting up from the floor, easier or at least “doable”.
Muscles can be a furnace for burning calories, and we get the best results when strength training is combined with any type of aerobic exercise, for example brisk walking, energetic dancing, bike riding or swimming. The bigger muscle mass that we have, the more capacity we have to burn calories and the less likely we are to gain weight as we get older.
Benefits of strength training
Strength training provides an endless number of benefits, such as increased bone, muscle, tendon and ligament strength, improved joint function, reduced potential for injury, increased bone density, a temporary increase in metabolism and improved cardiac function.
Reduce arthritis and back pain
‘Toned’ muscles help to support the bones that make up the joints and make a strong structure which reduces the load on the joint. Joints are kept lubricated by “Synovial Fluid”. This is a sticky gooey substance that is produced by the linings over the ends of the bones in the joints. It keeps the joint well lubricated and mobile. The synovial fluid and membrane also prevent bone from rubbing against bone which causes pain in the joint.
Increases your bone density
As we age our bones become less dense and more brittle. Exercise helps to keep the density of bones and can delay or prevent osteoporosis. It improves glucose intolerance and insulin sensitivity – strength training has been shown to improve the way the body uses sugar and therefore can help lessen the onset of diabetes as you age.
Improve mobility and functional ability
Maintaining or even improving our muscle strength allows us to carry on doing what we like doing when we want to do it!
Improves balance and coordination and helps to prevent falls
Strength training helps reduce the risk of falls because you are better able to support your body and strong muscles help to keep your body in the upright position. By having strong muscles, even if you do fall, you also have the strength to get up and to repair quickly.
Using the same group of muscles repeatedly but in the incorrect way could lead to incorrect posture. Strength training of certain muscle groups can help to improve your posture.
As you incorporate strength training exercises into your fitness routine, you may notice improvement in your strength over time. As your muscle mass increases, you'll likely be able to lift weight more easily and for longer periods of time. If you keep it up, you can continue to increase your strength, even if you're not in shape when you begin.
The good news is that it is never too late to take back control and to start to improve from where you currently are. All it takes is a sensible and regular dose of strength training.
Taking part in a strength training session as little as only once or twice a week will provide significant improvements, training 3 times a week will give maximum results.
Exercise has also been shown to combat depression, to improve self-esteem and if you join a class it is also a great way to make new friends!
As we take our first steps into 2022 many of us will be setting ourselves targets and goals for the year. From fitness goals to events, it’s a great idea to have something to aim for so you keep focused and accountable.
If you overindulged during Christmas and New Year it’s important not to feel guilty, now is the perfect time to reassess your diet and exercise regime and you'll soon be feeling more energised and positive. Remember, fad diets rarely work in the long term so focus more on eating well and making sensible choices rather than starving yourself or denying yourself treats.
Here are our top tips to help you get your fitness back on track for 2022:
Aim to get some fresh air everyday by going for a walk, jog or bike ride. You’ll get some much-needed vitamin D, clear your head and get a dose of those uplifting endorphins. Exercising when it’s cold might not seem very enticing but the benefits are more than worth it so put on your warm clothes and head outside!
Join a Fitness Class
If you’re struggling to get motivated and need a bit of a push then why not join a fun exercise class or bootcamp? Make new friends and get fit at the same time. Being part of a class will help keep you accountable and you’re less likely to quit.
Try Something New
If you find exercising boring, then why not try something you’ve never done before? Running or walking can be a lonely experience if you go alone but if you join a walking group or a running club it might give you the boost you need to keep at it.
Sign up to an event
You don’t have to be a super fit athlete to take part in one of the many events available. From Sponsored walks, park runs, charity cycle rides or a Swimathon, you’re sure to find something to tickle your fancy. Signing up for an event will help motivate you to continue with your training and give you an immense feeling of pride when you complete the challenge.
The start to 2022 has been a bit bumpy and it looks like it could be a bit rocky for the next few months which makes it even more important to focus on our well-being. Exercise is vital for a healthy lifestyle and really helps lift your mood.
If you are training for a particular event and need a little support reaching your goal, Smart Fitt offers personalised fitness coaching, contact Amanda for more information.
We are excited to share that Amanda was featured in the Instructors Spotlight at Move It Or Lose It this month. You can read her interview here:
Instructors Spotlight - Move It Or Lose It
This month we had a catch up with one of our instructors, Amanda Abbott, who runs her classes at various locations in Lincolnshire. We asked Amanda a few questions and here's what she had to say.
How did you find out about the FABS course?
I saw an ad on Facebook.
What did you do before becoming a Move it or Lose it instructor?
I'm a level three personal trainer and hold Level 3 Designing Exercise Programmes for the Senior Population too, so I did personal training and a couple of "chairobics" classes.
What made you want to do the FABS course?
It seemed like the natural progression from the courses I'd already done.
What do you love most about being an instructor?
Seeing people improve. Seeing their faces when something 'goes right'.
Have you had any funny moments in your classes?
So many! Once doing the pass the baton around the circle game, I had left my bag of spare batons behind a gentleman (the group joker!). Every time I called 'stop' to get the group to do a move in between the passing there seemed to be an extra baton! Then there were two extra batons.
Every time there were more and more batons in the circle. The gentleman in question kept dipping into the bag of spares and adding them into the circle. It took me quite a while to work out what was happening. Meanwhile a few in the circle had worked it out or had seen the extra batons being added.
I couldn't believe I was so slow to pick up on what was happening. We had a great laugh that day!
What's your favourite music track to use in a class?
I don't really have a favourite. I plan my routines to last for around 6 weeks. Every routine has a bit of a theme, so at the moment I'm doing Autumn/Halloween.
Amongst the tracks being used at the moment we've got Time Warp and Thriller for the aerobic section; Ghost Town by The Specials for the strength section and Autumn Leaves for the cool down. I like a good box step to the right music as you can really get into the beat - my groups like it too!
What would you say to anyone thinking about doing the FABS course and becoming an instructor?
Be prepared for a lot of hard work, working out playlists and routines are very time consuming. But the sense of achievement when you deliver a good routine; when the group all works together in unison; the smiles on the clients faces and the laughter make this a very rewarding occupation.
What are your hobbies?
Open water swimming, cycling (road and off-road), taekwondo. gardening, baking and sewing.
What is your favourite food?
Any recipe with lamb!
What is your favourite TV programme?
Tricky this - I always forget when dramas are on so I'll watch one episdoe then forget it's on. I'm not good with catch-up tv.
The Great British Sewing Bee and Great British Bake Off are my 'must see' programmes though.
What is your guilty pleasure?
I love going for long walks with my dog (Cocker Spaniel called Bailey) and will organise my weekly schedule so that I have one afternoon a week to go for a lovely long walk in the local countryside.