Maintaining Muscle Through Strength Training
Isn’t life easier, more fun and lots more enjoyable when you are in-shape, feeling strong, healthy and toned, and looking good? If that’s you, it’s probably pretty safe to say you’ve been doing some strength training and weight training in your workout routines.
Why Strength Training Matters
Strength training helps you develop strong bones, control your weight, and boost your energy and endurance. It can also help you manage, reduce and even prevent chronic health maladies, because strength training reduces resting blood pressure, controls blood sugar, improves cholesterol levels and even gives you a mental edge. Without adding lean muscle, you will surely add percentage points of fat around your middle as well as the rest of your body.
Whether you do full-body weight exercises on the Total Gym in your home workouts, add resistance tubing or free weights to your glideboard routines, or other weight training activities at home or in the gym, you can prevent the reduction of skeletal muscle that inevitably occurs with aging (called Sarcopenia, or “vanishing flesh”) through strength training.
Myths and Facts About Muscle Loss
But what if you can’t continue a strength training routine due to injury, or fall into a lapse period where you’re taking a break from strength training? Can you still maintain muscle mass?
Muscle mass commonly decreases by nearly 50% as people age. On average, people lose about 30% of their strength as they move from their 50s to their 70s without added strength training.
There are so many myths about strength training and exercise in general. The one I hear most often is this: If you stop strength training, your muscles will turn to fat. Do you also think apples are actually oranges and Ferraris are really Fiats? You see, fat and muscle are not able to turn into each other.
Stop developing muscle through strength training and although the scale may reveal the same number, it’s what’s under the hood that counts. Strength training adds muscle, which helps burn more calories, which reduces stored fat. Stop developing muscle mass and you begin burning less calories, your metabolism slows down and fat replaces muscle. The number on the scale still says 150 pounds but it’s the fat-to-muscle ratio that’s changed.
Get Back to Strength Training
The older one becomes the more quickly muscle will atrophy without regular strength training. It doesn’t happen as quickly with younger folks. Incorporate strength training into your daily lifestyle according to your current level of fitness and health. If you’ve been away from strength training for some significant time — more than a couple of weeks — quickly jumping back into it with vigorous exercise is unwise as it can cause muscle damage such as scarring and inflammation. So, get back to strength training, but avoid an all-or-nothing attitude.
If you are unsure about how to start, hire a certified personal trainer to create the right strength-training regime for you. You many also want to speak with a nutritionist or your doctor about the amount of protein and insulin — which play a role in muscle wasting — in your daily diet. Take comfort in the fact that “muscle memory” is a wonderful friend and will help you return to your more-lean, muscular state.
Can’t lift or pull your body weight when you restart? Adjust the glideboard to make it an easier reintroduction. Circuit training with push-ups, squats, lunges, crunches and other similar activities will also renew your strength.
The more quickly you restart your healthy nutrition plan and your commitment to exercise and strength training, the sooner you’ll be back on the road to longevity and wellbeing. It’s true when people say “Use it or lose it.” It takes my “CHAIR” approach: Commitment, Healthy nutrition, Activity, Internal motivation and Realistic goals.