The longer I am in the fitness industry the more I find myself encouraging clients and friends alike to make strength training a regular part of their exercise programs. It seems one of the latest trends is to shame cardio and paint the proponents of it as neanderthals. I don’t believe that, and I really think we as fitness professionals should be called to be more accepting of those modes of exercise that don’t fit in with our own personal preferences. Let’s be more inclusive as opposed to exclusive.
However, I’ll be the first to admit that cardio isn’t a necessity. You don’t have to do it in order to maintain health, that is if you’re staying active, be it through strength training or other activity. And if you’ve ever done a set of walking lunges with a moderately heavy pair of dumbbells in your hands, tell me your heart isn’t about to jump out of your chest when you finish. If that’s not cardio I’m not sure what is?! I do feel however, that strength training is a must for anyone, or at least anyone interested in aging gracefully. I’ve been in my fair share of nursing homes over the years due to the failing health of several of my grandparents, and most recently when walking out my brother said “Just give me a gun before I end up like that”.
It may be crass, but I don’t think anyone likes the thought of having to be spoon fed Jello, especially the green kind that stuff is terrible. While the thought of living that existence is commonplace for many it doesn’t have to be. We have a choice, and that choice is strength training. It really is the closest thing to a fountain of youth, in my opinion. As I’m sure you’ve heard or depending on your age maybe even noticed, after you hit that sweet spot in your 20’s where you can eat like a garbage disposal without gaining weight, things start to slow down a bit. And one of those processes is the ability to build lean muscle mass.
For most of us in our late 20’s the chemical cocktail of hormones that help us pack on new muscle starts to diminish, and that means if we aren’t doing anything about it (strength training), so too does our muscle mass. Now if the words muscle mass start to conjure up some dude with spiky hair, glowing orange skin, and a banana hammock let’s work to get rid of that association. Many times the thought of muscles reminds us of bodybuilders and all the negative stereotypes that come along with it, when in fact muscle is the very thing that can prevent you from dribbling chocolate pudding down your chin in the senior living home.
Muscle should not be looked down upon, but should be celebrated as the ultimate in freedom as we age. Without muscle we get feeble and activities of daily living get tough, but a consistent routine of strength training, can prevent many of these age related issues. I encourage you to look for inspiring stories of those who can match performance to those decades their junior, because they are all over the internet, and are a testament to what strength training can do for you. And as a last note strength training does not have to be performed in a gym, it can be done in your basement, your backyard, or your local park, . Now go and enjoy the beautiful creation that is the human body!