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!
Covid-19 has meant a complete change for how Smart-Fitt can bring fitness classes to the local community but thankfully we can all still stay active with me through my virtual classes!
Virtual classes allow anyone to join in from the comfort of their own home by following along to one of Amanda’s classes online. It’s easy to lose motivation, especially in the current situation but exercise, as we know, boosts our physical and mental health. We all need a boost right now and virtual classes are a great way to stay fit and healthy.
Smart-Fitt classes that are available online are the Move It Or Lose It classes and the Total Body Blast classes.
Total Body Blast - Youtube Playlist
Move it or lose it - Youtube Playlist
Move It or Lose It classes are ideal for older people and those who have limited mobility. Exercises can be performed seated or standing and can be adapted to suit everyone no matter their ability. Many of the moves are ‘functional fitness’, meaning they represent activities we commonly carry out in our daily lives eg; knee raises which can help with our ability to get up and down the stairs. The classes are fun and relaxed, as you can see in our videos:
Exercises are wonderfully designed to help us older people to keep mobile, great music too, to which we often sing along!
(Sue, attends Move It Or Lose It at Elsea Park)
Thank you so much for the weekly keep fit videos you put online... It puts a big smile on my face! I am so happy knowing I am doing something to stay fit.
(Ann, online weekly videos)
Total Body Blast classes are High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) classes which are ideal if you want to burn calories and get fit! HIIT workouts consist of short, intense bursts of exercise followed by short periods of rest. Amanda has been doing a weekly Total Body Blast class online, checkout the workouts available so far:
Total Body Blast is great for getting in shape and improving fitness and the online classes are great for keeping you motivated:
Since lockdown I’ve been following her videos on YouTube and they’ve been so effective and good and they still manage to motivate me which is something I struggle to do on my own. I can’t wait to start the sessions again to see how much further I can push myself.
(Cassie Strickland, attends 1-1 sessions)
Watch this space for more virtual classes and shout up on social media if there is something you particularly enjoy or would like me to cover.
A Look Back at 2019
As we all look forward to spending time with family and friends celebrating Christmas and New Year it’s a perfect time to have a look back at 2019. We’ve had a fantastic time at Smart Fitt and it’s been great to help support all of you on your fitness journey. It was great to meet new people at the Bring a Buddy classes we had back in February and the taster class at the Seniors Holiday Club over the summer. As it’s the festive season we have had lots of fun in our classes, trying different routines and listening to Christmas music to really get us in the spirit!
Fun and Laughter at Move It or Lose It!
The Move It or Lose It classes are designed to improve muscle strength and balance which helps reduce the risk of falls. All of the classes can be carried out either seated or standing making them ideal for older people and those with limited mobility.
At our last Essendine Move It or Lose It class we played the ball and beanbag game. Everyone was partnered up and then the game started with a bouncy ball that the partners bounced to one another. Next the ball was put aside and they started overhand throws with the beanbag. Lastly, one of the partners had the bouncy ball while the other had the beanbag and they then had to throw both at the same time! Of course this meant they needed to talk to each other to decide how they would know when to throw! Everyone had a great time and it resulted in much laughter!
At Elsea Park we played a ball game where alternate people had a ball then moving from left to right each person bounced the ball in between themselves and the next person. That person then caught the ball and bounced the ball to their left. By the end all the balls were moving around the circle.
Christmas Total Body Class
At our HIIT circuit we had a Christmas themed class which consisted of ‘Pass the Present Back’ (passing a 3kg Cross-Fit ball), ‘Shopping Bag Carry Relay’ (10kg “shopping bags”) and ‘Driving the Sleigh’ (using a resistance band looped around their feet as reins and performing the Russian Twist). In the photo you can see two inspirational class members driving their sleighs, they have been coming to this class for nearly 3 years and don’t they look amazing?
The Total Body Blast class is made up of HIIT exercises and varies from week to week. Every class is designed specifically to suit the individuals depending on age, ability and mobility. HIIT is where a workout consists of short, intense bursts of exercise followed by short periods of rest. These classes are excellent for improving fitness, stamina and burning calories.
Keeping Fit Over Christmas
At Christmas it’s easy to over indulge so it’s good to be mindful about what we’re eating and drinking. The Independent asked a dietician for calorie guides for our favourite Christmas lunch and treats:
Add to that the odd glass of wine or festive tipple and the calories soon stack up.
To help keep healthy over the festive period while classes aren’t on be sure to stay active- go for a walk, do some light housework or some gentle exercises in your chair if you have limited mobility.
Enjoy your Christmas and New Year celebrations and stay active!