One of the best ways to reduce your chances of dying from heart disease, colon cancer, diabetes, or high blood pressure is regular physical activity. Physical activity contributes to healthy bones, muscles, and joints — as well as controlling your weight. It’s also a source of mental well being as many studies show being active reduces depression and anxiety. The activity does not need to be strenuous to be beneficial, but unfortunately people tend to exercise less as they age.
If you are 50 or older give some thought to a muscle building program. Even if you are somewhat disabled with a chronic illness, a muscle building program can be of great benefit to you. Many older people are tagged with the term frail. Frail can mean several things, but it generally refers to the loss of muscle and strength seen in older people. A better term would be sarcopenia which is the word researchers use to mean the loss of muscle and strength as well as decreased quality of muscle tissue seen in older adults. It’s a word you are likely to hear more about in the future, since sarcopenia is a very active area of research.
Your first step in any fitness program is to get the green light from your physician. Your doctor will be able to tell you if a strength training program is safe for your health profile.
If you’ve never done strength training or weight lifting, discuss your plans with a professional trainer. You can hurt yourself if you don’t do the exercises correctly. If you’re in shape and already exercise regularly, there are many good articles and DVDs available.
Once you’ve been at your training for a while you’ll feel ready to switch to heavier weights and more repetitions. Before moving up, take these tips into consideration:
- Every few weeks, reassess how you’re doing. Take notice if your exercises are feeling too easy or too difficult. Make adjustments accordingly.
- Your goal should be moderate difficulty. You should be able to lift your weights ten times in a row with moderate difficulty.
- Don’t be in a rush. In order to avoid injury, increase your weights by only a few pounds at a time. The Centers For Disease Control recommends women start with a set of one-pound, three-pound, and five-pound dumbbells. The recommendation for me is for three, five, and eight pounds. Ankle weights should be increased a half-pound to a pound at time.
Most importantly, none of your training should cause pain. The range within which you move your arms and legs should never hurt.
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