For many, growing older seems to involve an inevitable loss of strength, energy, and vigor—but that need not be, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Frailty and decreased energy associated with aging are largely due to muscle loss due to inactivity. And when it comes to muscle, the old saying is true: “Use it or lose it.”
What To Do: One of the best ways to keep muscles healthy and strong, the CDC advises, is through exercises called strength training.
Why Do It: Regular strength training builds bone, muscle and helps to preserve strength, independence and energy. These exercises are safe and effective for women and men of all ages, including those not in perfect health. In fact, people with health concerns, such as arthritis or heart disease, often benefit the most from lifting weights a few times each week. Strength training can also reduce the signs and symptoms of:
- Arthritis—reduces pain and stiffness and increases strength and flexibility.
- Diabetes—improves glycemic control.
- Osteoporosis—builds bone density and reduces the risk of falls.
- Heart disease—reduces cardiovascular risk by improving lipid profile and overall fitness.
- Obesity—increases metabolism, which helps burn more calories and helps with long-term weight control.
- Back pain—strengthens back and abdominal muscles to reduce stress on the spine.
What’s more, studies have shown that people who exercise regularly sleep better and have less depression, more self-confidence and self-esteem, and a greater sense of well-being.
Fortunately, strength training exercises are easy to learn and have been proven safe and effective through years of thorough research. What’s more, you may be relieved to learn, there are ways to train without undo strain, aches, and pains.
- A few minutes (2-3 times a week) to maintain general fitness. 3 or 4 five-minute bursts of activity such as walking or stair climbing.
- 2-3 more minutes a day for yoga breathing and movements for body maintain balance, usable strength, flexibility, and muscular restoration.
- Another few minutes every day and before any vigorous exercise doing calf stretches and forward bends.
- Stay hydrated before, during and after your workout.
- Reduce risk of muscle soreness after exercise; consider massage, Epsom salts bath or intermittent hot and cold showers, and proper stretching and cooldown.
- Signs you should look for alerting you to rest your muscles and avoid overtraining are a higher than normal resting heart rate, disrupted sleep due to an elevated heart rate, muscle cramping, and muscle twitching. All signs of muscle strains and pulls.
- Eat right. In addition to lots of fruits and vegetables and a few lean meats, consume foods with magnesium, which helps fight inflammation, and with vitamin B12—especially if you’re over 50—such as fortified cereals. Drink three cups of fat-free or low-fat milk throughout the day or consume the equivalent in yogurt, cheese or other dairy products. Consider an anti-inflammatory diet—cut out sugar, potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant.
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