The importance of including resistance and strength training in your exercise plan
When we are young we can take our strength and mobility for granted; being able to hold our little brother’s school bag above our head just out of his reach is both easy and incredibly satisfying (until mum finds out!). But as we age our musculoskeletal system can decline in function, we lose muscle strength and flexibility and this leads to balance issues and loss of muscle mass or sarcopenia. Back and joint pain are widespread with approximately 1.7 billion people affected globally and in NZ causing about 13% of health loss *
Muscles are also metabolically active in the body, involved in numerous processes including insulin and glucose regulation, and fatty acid oxidation. In fact, muscle loss is the greatest contributor towards basal metabolic rate reduction (or ability to burn calories at rest and during activity). Averaging 2-3% drop in BMR per decade* , hypertrophy (muscle gain) is your best line of defense against the body’s tendency to gain weight.
Keeping our muscles in good shape should be top of our health priority list
Incorporating resistance and strength training into our regular exercise plan is the best way to keep muscles strong. Even individuals who are very physically active may not focus enough on building their muscles, instead preferring aerobic activities like running which is both an easier and quicker exercise fix with less equipment than resistance or strength training. Without resistance training muscles can lose between 3-8% of their mass every decade after the age of 30yrs increasing even further after 60yrs.* Muscle composition also changes and the amount of fat infiltrating skeletal muscle rises.
Resistance training keeps muscles strong by stimulating muscle fibres to grow in mass and quality
To fully benefit, resistance training needs to be performed with correct form and technique under the close supervision of a qualified professional.
resistance and strength training to be undertaken on 2-3 non-consecutive days per week
exercises should address each major muscle group; 2-3 sets of resistance training performed per muscle group
each repetition should be executed in a controlled manner through the full range of motion.
The clinical benefits
These include improvements in muscle strength and mass, joint pain, body fat, blood pressure, basal metabolic rate, bone density, glycemic control, lipid profiles, endothelial function, cognitive function, less falls…the list goes on.
Essentially it increases your chance of healthy longevity
So, what do you want your body to be capable of in the years to come?…do you still want to be able to lift your 7kg hand luggage into the overhead locker when you jet set around the world at 70yrs? Then make strength and resistance training a primary focus of your exercise plan so that your muscles stay strong for as long as you need them too 😊.
* D'Onofrio, G., Kirschner, J., Prather, H., Goldman, D., & Rozanski, A. (2023). Musculoskeletal exercise: Its role in promoting health and longevity. Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases.