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Do you want to live longer and better?Include strength training!

Regular physical activity promotes general good health, reduces the risk of developing many diseases and helps you live a longer and healthier life. For many of us, "exercise" means walking, jogging, the treadmill, and anything that gets the heart rate up and the heart working harder.

But the importance of strength training is often overlooked. Once you reach your 50s and beyond, strength (or resistance) training is critical to maintaining your ability to perform the most ordinary activities of daily living and to maintaining an active and independent lifestyle.

The average 30-year-old person will lose about a quarter of their muscle strength by age 70 and half of that by age 90. "Aerobic exercise alone is not enough. "If you don't do strength training, your muscles will weaken, you'll be more vulnerable and less functional," says Dr. Robert Schreiber, an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

What is strength training?

Strength training includes any of the following:

  • Free weights, such as barbells and dumbbells;

  • Ankle cuffs and vests containing various weights;

  • Resistance (elastic) bands of different lengths and strengths that you bend using your arms and legs;

  • Exercises that use your body weight against gravity, such as push-ups and squats, deadlifts, etc.

How much time do you need?

A strength training session for beginners only takes 20 minutes and you don't need to strain or sweat like a cartoon bodybuilder. The key is to develop a good program, perform the exercises correctly and be consistent. You will notice your strength increase within four to eight weeks.

How to start?

One option is to buy equipment. A set of basic weights for beginners can be found at a fairly reasonable price in any sporting goods store or ordered online. Fitness clubs also offer a variety of choices, but in this case you will have to pay a fee to visit. Books and video tutorials can help you learn basic moves and start building your routine. We assume that senior clubs also offer strength training programs. If your club does not, it is time to become the initiator of such an idea! In addition to taking care of your body's health, the contacts in the training group will give you the social support that we all need.

Whatever way you choose to start, do it slowly and carefully so you don't injure yourself. Discuss it with your doctor, telling him what level of exercise you want to achieve. Mild to moderate muscle soreness between workouts is normal, but slow down or stop briefly if it lasts more than a few days.

Age and the loss of muscle mass

Over the years, muscle mass in the body as a whole shrinks, and strength and power decrease. The process starts sooner than you think. Sarcopenia, defined as age-related loss of muscle mass, can begin around age 35 and occurs at a rate of 1-2 percent per year for the average person. After age 60, it can accelerate to 3 percent per year. The loss may be mild, moderate, or severe, or the muscles may remain within normal limits.

But on average, adults who don't do regular strength training can expect to lose 4 to 6 pounds of muscle per decade. (For most people, the pounds don't come off, which means they're replacing that muscle with fat.) Fast-twitch energy-providing fibers are lost at a faster rate than slow-twitch fibers, meaning you not only get bigger -weak but also slower.

Weak muscles accelerate the loss of independence, making even everyday activities a problem, such as walks, cleaning, shopping and even dressing. They interfere with your ability to cope with and recover from illness or injury. Disability is 1.5 to 4.6 times higher in older adults with moderate to severe sarcopenia than in those with normal muscle mass. Weak muscles also make it difficult to balance when moving and even while standing still, and loss of strength compounds the problem.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, one in three adults aged 65 and over falls each year. Some of these falls can have severe consequences, including bone fractures, admission to long-term care facilities, and even death from complications. But strength training can help. People with stronger muscles fall less often, and even when they do, they are less likely to sustain a serious injury.

Loss of muscle strength and mass are not the only factors contributing to age-related decline in functionality and mobility. Mitochondria - the energy-producing "powerhouses" inside cells - decrease in number and are not as efficient. Likewise, the nervous system that activates different muscle fibers deteriorates with age and because we don't actively use it.

While it's tempting to attribute all of these changes to aging alone, muscle disuse plays a bigger role than many people suspect. Studies show that strength training can help us reverse these effects and largely restore full muscle function.

So, make a plan and start strength training!

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