I was asked the other day by a client, “As a woman in my fifties should I really be lifting weights? All I want to do is lose a few pounds to feel better. So shouldn’t I just be doing cardio?”
That client isn’t alone in being baffled by her workout. It’s amazing just how many of us are doing exercises, and we don’t really know why. Sure, we all have the idea that being active is good for us (mainly because someone else told us, or we read it in numerous magazines). We know too that when we want to lose a few extra pounds, we need to do that extra run. Yet many of us are kind of clueless to the long-term benefits of physical activity and why it’s important for us to keep it up in the many years to come.
So why is it important?
Many studies have shown that regular participation in exercise can reduce the risk of life-threatening conditions such as high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, Type 2 Diabetes, stroke, disease and some cancers. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, so I’m probably not telling you anything new.
However, what you might not be aware of is that doing exercise, especially strength-based exercise, will improve your muscle strength and tone. While this means building a body that’s great to look at (hey – who doesn’t want to have awesome arms!), it also means bettering your balance, which is vital as you become older.
Exercise also boosts your brain power. By increasing the levels of serotonin in your brain, hitting the gym can improve your memory, help your focus and even chase away the blues.
As we start to age, these benefits are even more important. Think about your parents or even grandparents and how their quality of life could improve if they were a little bit stronger.
OK, I hear you say, we get it. But, Nicky, should I really be weight training?
YES! Never before has the term “use it or lose it” been more important. I’m not saying we should all be deadlifting our own body weight, but we should all be lifting some weight to ensure our muscles and bones are strengthened. If we don’t use them, our bodies will think they’re not needed. Our bones will weaken and get brittle while the muscles can stop growing, or even worse, regress.
But I’m too old to start doing weights
Rubbish! Resistance training can enhance muscle mass in people who are 90+ years of age. Researchers at the University of Navarra in Spain showed that people over the age of 90, who kept a three-month exercise routine that included weight training, improved their strength, power and muscle mass significantly.
Leg exercises, in particular, can lead to dramatic gains to people’s balance, therefore reducing the risk of falls (which, according to Age UK are the leading cause of death for folk over 75 years).
OK, so how often should I exercise?
From an NHS guideline viewpoint, the suggestion is 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week. This means going for a fast walk, jog or cycle. On top of this, they also recommend at least two sessions a week of strength training targeting all your major muscle groups.
At Pursuit, we suggest at least three sessions a week of strength training to really ensure you stay in tip top shape – and, yes, of course, we’re including women in their 50s in this recommendation.
So, I hope this has helped in pointing out the benefits of exercising at any age and, specifically, why picking up those weights today may keep you healthy, active and fit for years to come.
See you in the gym!