Have you ever thought about adding strength training to your exercise routine or simply starting an exercise routine with weights? Many women that I work with and talk to have but are intimidated by what they think they know about weight training – that they’ll “bulk up”, that weight training is only for younger people, or it’s only for people interested in large muscles. None of these widely held beliefs are true! Strength (or weight) training has many health benefits, particularly for those 50 and over, in addition to muscle toning.
Strength training helps with weight control. Simply put, muscle burns more calories than fat, even at rest. Strength training helps build muscle. Don’t worry about bulking up, though. In order to develop a bulk, a significant amount of time must be spent in the weight room. More than the recommended three days for weight control.
Strength training builds both bone and muscle mass. As we age, we lose about 1 percent of our bone and muscle strength each year. By stressing our bones and muscles with weight training, they become stronger and bone and muscle loss can be prevented and even reversed. Our balance, coordination and posture improve.
Strength training help with disease prevention, boosts energy levels and improves your mood. Arthritis, osteoporosis and type 2 diabetes are a few diseases which can be improved with weight training. It also elevates your endorphin levels, is a great antidepressant, helps you sleep better and improves your overall quality of life.
So how much strength training is needed? To achieve significant benefits, training should be done two to three times a week (three is better). All the major muscle groups should be worked. That is – legs, back, chest, shoulders, triceps, biceps and abdominals.
The goal for endurance and toning is to fatigue the muscle group you’re working within about 12-15 repetitions. If you can’t lift 12, it’s too heavy. If you can lift 15, it’s too light. Complete one to three sets of each exercise (a set is each time you complete 12-15 repetitions). Be sure to give your muscles a rest period of a couple days so they can recover from the work they performed. This rest period is what helps the become stronger.
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