Strength Training ... is powerful medicine
Two years ago, Betty Sweeney was hospitalized at Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital and was not expected to live.
"I had a 106 degree temperature, a bladder infection I was septic, my kidneys had shut down; my heart was beating with funky rhythms I had respiratory problems; and I had put on about 30 pounds of water weight,” Sweeney said.
"Once I recovered, I knew I had to get in shape. With the help of a nutrition nurse, I changed the way I ate, how I cooked food, and practiced portion control."
Sweeney also joined a local gym and enlisted the help of Dave Candra, a personal trainer. "We do a lot of resistance training, a lot of cardio, kickboxing – it’s a little bit of everything," said Sweeney, who exercises an hour a day, 3 to 4 days a week. "I have lost 110 pounds. I no longer have problems with arthritis; my flexibility has increased, I’ve been able to get off of medications, and I can run 4 to 5 miles without stopping,” said Sweeney. “I’m 71 and had never run in my life until last year."
It’s never too late to start.
Betty Sweeney enjoys many of the benefits that everyone – at any age – can realize by adding strength training to their lifestyle.
"Resistance training with weights is now considered a key part of anyone’s exercise program," says Steve Seiberling, DPT, physical therapist and director of rehab services at Ministry Our Lady of Victory Hospital in Stanley. "Women, in particular, have much to gain from resistance training because it strengthens bones and joints."
Yet, fewer than 21 percent of women strength train at least twice a week.
Improve joint health
Resistance or strength training strengthens the connective tissues. This increases joint stability during movement for better balance and steadiness.
Control blood pressure
Strength training may reduce blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
Tone up and slim down
Doing 12 to 15 repetitions of exercises using light weights, develops muscle tone and definition, which helps you lose inches, not bulk up.
Increase metabolism Each pound of muscle burns 35 to 50 calories a day just to sustain itself. A combination of strength training and a low-fat, high-fiber diet, may help you lose those extra pounds.
Inactive 30- to 40-year-olds may lose half a pound of muscle each year; people over age 50 may lose one pound of muscle each year.
Increase bone density
According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), it not only increases bone density, it may also stop bone loss from occurring during menopause. Strong bones and muscles may prevent fractures and breaks; it may also help you avoid the dowager’s hump that is characteristic of osteoporosis.
Be strong to the core
"Core body muscles run the length of your torso. They include 29 internal and external muscles in the front and sides of your abdomen, at your sides (obliques), around your spine, from your neck to lower back, and muscles that flex or move your hips," said Stacey Gusman, a family nurse practitioner with Ministry Victory Medical Group’s Owen Clinic.
"Core muscles stabilize your spine so you can stand and walk. Coordination strength, power, speed and balance all originate from well-trained core muscles," said Gusman.
Here are three quick and easy exercises that you can do to strengthen your core muscles – without a gym membership – you can even do them in your office chair during your break. Be sure to tighten your abdominals and glutes and squeeze your shoulders together, keeping your back as straight as possible.
- Sit forward in your chair so that your glutes and your back are as far from the back of the chair as possible. Breathe in as you slowly lean your torso and shoulders backwards keeping spine straight from your hips to top of your head, lean as far back as you can without overextending your back. Hold the position as long as possible and breathe out as you return to your starting position.
- Sit tall in your chair with your feet on the floor. Lean forward. For even more resistance, raise one foot in a slow and deliberate movement as you lean forward and hold.
- Sit forward in your chair. Keep both feet on the floor. Grip a water bottle or towel in your hands and lift it over your head. Slowly bend from side as far as you can.
Form is very important, so learn the proper technique for each exercise before you start. Always warm up before you work out and stretch when you are finished.