Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Benefits of Strength Training
When muscles work against a greater than normal resistance, they get stronger. Strength training, resistance training, and weight training are all terms for this type of exercise. As your muscles work against the resistance, over time, they adapt and become stronger. Increased strength has many benefits for everyday life. Common activities, like cleaning house, cooking, lifting boxes, or picking up your children or grandchildren, are easier and less tiring. Strength training is very good for bone health: it can increase bone formation in younger people and slow bone loss in older people (or those of us at higher risk of bone loss because of cancer treatments). Good bone strength is important both for avoiding or slowing osteoporosis, and for reducing the risk of fracture.
At Stay Fit Stay Strong and Life-Cise, we place special attention on strength training because of the huge impact it can have on functional activities of daily life and quality of life. Recommendations by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association are that adults engage in muscle-building exercises at least two non-consecutive days per week. Try to do 8-10 exercises that work the upper and lower body, and core (abdomen and back). The number of repetitions for each exercise will vary, depending on what your goals are, but aim for 8-12 repetitions of each exercise. Generally, fewer repetitions with greater weight will result in greater strength gains. Using less weight and performing more repetitions will develop greater muscular endurance. So, for instance, if you are feeling very fatigued from chemo or radiation, you probably want to focus on endurance - more reps. & less weight. But if you are trying to prepare for surgery & want to be in better shape or are working to regain your strength after finishing treatment, try more weight and fewer reps. Warm up for a few minutes before you begin (walking, stretching, or some light aerobic activity). This will improve your muscles' ability to perform the exercises and lower your chance of injury.
Two good exercises that don't require any weights are wall squats and tummy tucks. They are great for any phase of treatment. They build strength and stability which is so necessary for recovering from surgery, keeping up your stamina during treatment, and getting on with your life afterwards. The wall squat uses your own body weight for the resistance. It strengthens your legs by working the muscles of the thigh (quadriceps), back of the leg (hamstrings), and buttocks (gluteals). Stand with your back against a wall, feet hip-width apart, about 1 ½ - 2 ft. from the wall. If you have a physio ball, you can place that between you and the wall at your lower back. Bend your knees so that you slide down the wall until your knees are directly above your ankles. If you can’t go that far, squat only as far as you can, even if you can only manage a few inches. Push yourself back up to the starting position by straightening your knees. The tummy tuck can be done anywhere – sitting, standing, or lying down. It strengthens the abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis, and internal and external obliques). If you’re sitting, sit up tall and simply draw your navel in toward your spine. Hold and take a few breaths while keeping your tummy drawn in. Add a twist to work your obliques: while keeping your tummy drawn in, rotate your torso to the right to about 45 degrees, and then to the left.
According to ACSM, research shows that even people more than 90 years old improve their muscular strength when they do regular strength training. I like to keep that in mind - if someone in their 90s can get stronger, then surely I can, too.