By Jeff Tomaszewski, Chief Life Transformer, MaxStrength Fitness
Fitness trends come and go, but weight training in particular never seems to come into style. Most people tend to reach the apex of their physical strength during their 20s and 30s and it gradually declines from there. Once our strength starts to go, so do other things. Muscular weakness is indelibly tied to not just our quality of life, but also to our life expectancy.
Two recent studies published in The British Medical Journal revealed that muscular strength is a remarkably strong predictor of mortality, even after adjusting for cardiorespiratory fitness and other health factors. This conclusion was reached after an analysis of more than 30 studies that recorded physical attributes like bench press strength, grip strength, walking speed, chair rising speed, and standing balance. What the researchers found was that poor performance on any of the tests was associated with higher all-cause mortality, anywhere from a 1.67 to a threefold increase in the likelihood of earlier mortality.
Now, here’s the good news: despite the inexorable effects of aging, physical strength is an attribute we can control. As the science is increasingly showing, resistance training can add years to your life, and the earlier you get to it, the better.
Hit the Weights Everyone
As these studies indicate, not all exercise is equal. Resistance training (like lifting weights) in conjunction with high-intensity workouts (like aerobics and running) is key. It’s never too late to start. And, yes, women, that means you, too! “Bulking up” is a myth. It’s arguably more important for women than men to lift weights because of a greater propensity for osteoporosis.
Studies show that older individuals can still experience the benefits of gene shifting even if they’ve never lifted weights. It also results in an increased production of growth hormones and testosterone and lower levels of cholesterol. And it can stave off the effects of neurodegenerative disorders and depression. Weight training also offers innumerable positive effects on our physical, cognitive and emotional well-being. Taken as a whole, exercise has been shown to add between six to seven years to a life span, if not more.
Isometric exercises are focused on tensing the muscles without movement. These exercises are not focused on increasing motion or flexibility, but rather on increasing muscle size and strength. The following exercises are geared toward preventing muscle loss with aging and promoting a modest increase in strength:
- Palm Versus Palm – Place your left palm on top of the right palm and attempt to bring the palm up to your chin while resisting with the other palm.
- Shoulder and Chest Muscles – Arms extended in front of you, palms facing, push palm to palm. Flex your muscles vigorously, but do not hold your breath or overdo it.
- Knee and Hip – Strengthen the knee by sitting on the floor or on a table with your leg stretched in front of you. Squeeze your thigh muscle to fully straighten the leg while flexing your ankle and lifting your toes up. Hold the contraction for 5 seconds and rest for 3. Repeat up to 10 to 15 times. This approach can be used for any muscle.
Jeff Tomaszewski, owner of MaxStrength Fitness in Westlake, is a certified athletic trainer and strength and conditioning specialist. He is a graduate of Case Western Reserve University and holds a master’s degree in exercise physiology. Jeff is also a personal trainer and professional body-builder committed to helping clients achieve their health and fitness goals. Visit www.maxstrengthfitness.com or call 440.835.9090.
- Be sure to warm up 10 minutes in advance and cool down for 10 minutes after the exercise is performed.
- If your joints hurt, stop the exercise immediately. Soreness in the muscle groups can be expected.
- Maintain good posture during exercise.
- Do not hold your breath and be sure to breathe during exertion while exercising.
- Do not grip weights tightly.
- Movements should be performed in a slow, moderate, and deliberate manner.