Do you like to squat or lunge? Do you like to grab a dumbbell or weighted bar during your week? Do you like the resistance of water exercise? Do you like to climb stairs? How do you feel when you complete those movements? You feel pretty darn good, right? Not just physically but also psychologically and emotionally.
I’ve said it before in previous columns; strong is the new skinny. We need strength and energy not only to get our normal daily functions done but also to have some fun in our day. Keep in mind that as we age we naturally lose muscle mass if we don’t train those muscles. Loss of muscle strength leads to potential injuries. Injuries lead to potential loss of independence in daily living.
Strength training is good for the body, mind and spirit. And, it’s never too late to start strength training. Here are some encouraging psychological benefits that we get from strength training, courtesy of the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
Happiness Helper. Strength training releases endorphins during and after exercise. These endorphins help make us happy. Think of how good you feel after exercising. Given the choice to lay on the couch or go exercise, try to remember how good you feel when you finish your exercise routine.
Boost self-esteem. Strength training helps improve your body image, self-perception and sense of accomplishment. There’s no doubt about it, strengthening exercises are work. I’m not just talking about gym exercises either. Try pulling weeds, shoveling, moving wheelbarrows of mulch and other yard work to make your property look good. You’ll not only have that sense of accomplishment and pride in your yard but also in your body for being strong enough to do those chores.
Dedication to Yourself. Strength training encourages a lifestyle of proper nutrition and time-management. Some people take this to a higher level with intense body building training. We all should be body building to some extent. Even the older adult using a walker for daily mobility should be body building at least two days per week to keep the ability to use that walker and not debilitate to using a wheelchair. When I say body building, I mean strengthening every major muscle group with 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetition movements per muscle group, according to the evidence based guidelines.
Energy. Strength training increases your power, endurance and overall energy. Energy is a very popular word today. Look at all the energy foods and drinks being bought and sold. Instead of using energy foods and drinks, try a healthy routine of exercise, eating nutritious foods and sleeping 7-8 hours each night. Incorporate strengthening exercises into that routine for added energy!
Better Sleep. Remember when you worked in the yard or garden all day? Or when you went to the ocean and played in the waves all day? How about the time you hiked up a mountain or went down-hill skiing? All those activities are natural strength trainers. Remember how you slept that night? I imagine you slept like a rock (as they say). Strength training helps us sleep better. Our bodies are demanding sleep to recover and repair the muscles from the day’s work.
Enjoy your strength training exercises! Here’s to you eating well, sleeping well and exercising.
Jonathan Souder is the Fitness Director at Manor House, an Acts Retirement-Life Community in Seaford, Delaware. This column appeared in the April 13, 2017 edition of the Seaford Star.