Strength Training Supports Health Across Your Lifespan

It’s almost summer, so “sun’s out, guns out” right?!  Truth being…we shouldn’t view strength training or weightlifting as something we do to prepare our “summer bodies”…or something only those who are young should do.  Strength training is something many, if not all of us would benefit from incorporating regularly into our weekly routines.  Furthermore, it is almost never too late to start as there are benefits to incorporating some form of strength training to our weekly wellness routines that have tremendous benefits across our lifetime.

Lifting dumbbells. Photo: Little Blossom Photography by BHL

Strength training, also known as resistance training, is an activity that helps to promote development of strength.  Many times, resistance training is associated with lifting actual barbells and dumbbells, but could also involve other forms of resistance such as bands, cables, and kettlebells.  

One does not need to be able to lift hundreds of pounds to experience the benefits of resistance training.  The challenge should be relative to the person.  However, it is important that you continuously challenge yourself.  As a particular exercise becomes easier, it would be of great benefit to challenge yourself with something slightly heavier.

Research abounds with evidence supporting the benefits of strength training for women and men across the lifespan.  Aside from the improvements that can be made in bone mineral density (BMD), resistance training also helps to improve function and stability, other key factors that help reduce fall risk.  Reducing fall risk through improving strength also helps to promote a fuller life as we enter our later years and may lead to a greater sense of independence.   

Given the statistics available regarding those at risk or who are living with osteoporosis, it becomes all the more important for women to pursue some form of resistance training.  According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) (2022), approximately 21.2% of women over 50 globally are estimated to have osteoporosis compared to approximately 6.3% of men.  Of even greater concern, the IOF (2022) statistics reveal that 61% of the fractures that do occur related to osteoporosis, the patients are women.  Research has demonstrated that women who started resistance training in their 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s have experienced an improved BMD following initiation of a resistance training program at least 2-3 days per week.  

I cannot say it enough…it is never too late to start!  I started lifting weights at the age of 34 and now at the age of 41, it is one of my favorite activities in the gym! 

And, you don’t need to live at the gym 5+ days a week to see improvements.  As mentioned above, it has been shown that one can experience the benefits of resistance training in even at least 2 days a week.  I have clients that lift on average 3 days per week and have  experienced great results.    

All this information, but where to start?

I often see people overlook strength training when they begin their weight loss journey with the misconception that they should lose their desired weight first before considering a lifting or resistance training program.  Instead, they focus on doing more cardio.  Yes, it is beneficial to have some form of cardiovascular activity in your daily routine.  For example, last month I wrote about the benefits of walking as an excellent way to improve your overall health and well-being.  (Didn’t get a chance to read it?  You can find that article in the blog section of my website!).  However, to amplify your results, if you are already doing some form of cardiovascular activity, your time is better spent doing some resistance/weight training instead of another cardiovascular activity.  

All this information, but where to start?!  If you are fortunate enough to have a gym membership, there are likely a number of resistance training options available.  If just starting out and prefer to workout at home, dumbbells are a great way to get started…especially for those on a limited budget.  I posted a video on YouTube where I talk about my recommended strategies for starting your home gym with dumbbells (go to YouTube and type in the search words “Coach Candice Home Gym”).       

One key item to keep yourself safe would be to always lift within your capabilities and challenge yourself within reason.  Proper form and proper progression are some key practices to help minimize risk of injury.  In addition, it will always be important to gauge your performance and improvement against your own personal best, and not to the personal best of others.  We are all on our own journey and we should not compare our Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 10 or Chapter 20.  We all start where we start and getting started is the most important part!  

Lastly, when in doubt, seek the guidance of a professional.  A professional will properly assess you, discuss with you your goals, and develop a program customized to you.  Some people are able to implement resistance training programs with the direction of an app, online programs, and/or online videos.  As always, I am happy to answer any questions you might have!  Please don’t hesitate to reach out.  I’d love to hear about how weightlifting has enhanced your life!

Author: Dr. Candice Dutko

This article was featured by Panorama in their June issue

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