Strength Training: The Universal Key to Health & Vitality

Strength Training: The Universal Key to Health & Vitality

At Clash we encourage ALL of our clients to participate in some form of strength training. Why you ask? Well, besides walking frequently by getting your daily 8,000-12,000 steps in, we believe it is a key component to longevity and quality of life. When it comes to the human body “If you don’t use it, you lose it” could not be more true. Think about it...we all know older folks, whether they are our grandparents, parents, or neighbors, who struggle with simple daily tasks. Even things like getting out of a chair or going up a flight of stairs can be difficult for some. This is NOT a normal part of the aging process. It happens because in this culture we stop doing the things that challenge our strength, endurance, and stability as we age. Many retire to a life of sitting on the couch watching the same daily programming. 

Muscle weakness is associated with increased risk for falls, arthritis, joint pain, and decreased bone density. Not only that, it makes you a less capable person. I mean let’s face it you’re not making one trip into the house with the groceries if you have weak shoulders, core, and/or hips! All joking aside, I think if you asked anyone if their goal was to require increased need for assistance and modification to their environment as they aged they would emphatically tell you no!  Humans are living longer than ever, the average life expectancy in the United States is now close to 80 years old. But, are we living better? How many of these years are of good quality, where we can independently move about and take joy in our daily activities? 

Strength training has been shown to increase bone mineral density in the hips and lower back, as well as improve balance in multiple studies thus reducing risk for falls or injury. Strength and stability are also very important for maintaining good posture and joint position. This in turn will reduce the progression of arthritis, as well as the pain associated with arthritic joints. Imagine how much you could do if you were able to stay stable, strong, and pain free? 

What’s even better? Strength training can benefit more than just your skeleton. Rates of noncommunicable diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease have been on the rise in this country for quite some time. Our resting metabolism tends to decrease as we age, but studies have shown we can combat this by strength training to maintain or even increase our muscle mass. The more muscle mass we have the more calories we are burning throughout the day, even when we are not necessarily doing something “active.” Research has also shown that it doesn’t matter how old you are when you start. You can still improve your strength and build muscle! On top of increasing your metabolism, strength training can improve your insulin sensitivity, ie. help prevent or reverse Type 2 diabetes. It can also help improve cardiovascular health by reducing resting blood pressure, decreasing LDL and triglycerides (think “bad” cholesterol), and increasing HDL (“good” cholesterol). It’s a win-win-win if you ask us!

Furthermore, strength training can even benefit your brain, helping you stay mentally sharp in addition to being physically strong. It was previously thought that aerobic exercise was the most important for improving and/or maintaining cognitive function. However, there is growing evidence mounting to show that strength training can improve attention, cognitive speed, episodic memory, and working memory. Many studies have shown when you combine strength training with aerobic training you can maximize cognitive improvement versus sticking to one form of exercise or the other. The benefits of strength are seemingly boundless. 

Declining health and function are not inevitable as you age despite being common. We want you to know avoiding these outcomes is not as hard as you may think. Finding 30 minutes 2-3 days a week is all it would really take to improve your strength in a meaningful way and set yourself on the path to longevity. If you performed exercises to address the strength of all of your major joints in each workout you’d be set up for success. 

It doesn’t have to be expensive either, requiring a gym membership or an extensive home gym set up. You can use your own body weight to challenge yourself, invest in some inexpensive resistance bands, or use sandbags to add resistance to exercises. You could also do something as simple as wearing a weight vest while you take a walk, hike, or climb stairs. 

We often tend to overcomplicate things when it comes to healthy living. Starting with a small step you can maintain consistently and build on is always better than trying to perform a complete overhaul of your habits. Small changes build on themselves over time while drastic changes tend to be unsustainable. We’ve all been the person who gets the new years resolution motivation juices flowing only to fail and be back to homeostasis by March. No matter who you are there is a form of strength training that will suit your goals, fit your schedule, and be sustainable long term. If you need help getting started or have an injury holding you back you know where to find us.