Along with aerobic exercise, muscle strengthening is a vital part of fitness for all age groups and levels of fitness. Muscle strengthening occurs when a specific muscle is put through a series of repetitions that build and condition that muscle. The ideal number of repetitions is the number right before you are not able to perform the exercise without help.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has set forth different guidelines for different age groups, but as always, before you begin any new exercise program, consult with your doctor.
For adults, the CDC recommends muscle strengthening exercises at least two days a week. These muscle strengthening exercises don’t have to be restricted to the gym. Yoga, gardening that involves digging or shoveling, and pushups on your bedroom floor all count. As long as the exercises involve all of your muscle areas at some point, they count. Using resistance bands (standing on a band and doing curls) and your own body weight (pull ups) are both excellent ways to work your muscles.
Older adults should get the same amount of muscle strengthening but with special attention paid to changes in balance and endurance. Some of the exercises may be completed while seated or holding on to a chair. Those new to strength training should work with their doctor to develop a safe, comprehensive plan that includes aerobic exercise and muscle strengthening.
Muscle strengthening is also an important part of health for adults with disabilities or conditions like osteoarthritis.
A study in 2003 found that many symptoms of pain and weakness decreased significantly after exercising two times a week, and another study in 2007 found that those people suffering from arthritis had a higher quality of life if they exercised the recommended 150 minutes a week. Any muscle strengthening exercises can also be completed while seated or holding on to a chair.
Children should also incorporate muscle strengthening activity into their daily 60 minutes of play at least three days a week. The best way to do this is through their regular play, adding games that use lunges, pull ups, or sit ups. These exercises should be learned without resistance bands at first. The goal is not to become a bodybuilder but to help build strong, correct muscle groups and support bone density. Don’t skip the stretching and warming up, and remind kids to hydrate throughout the exercise.
It is important to note that you need not exercise in hour-long blocks to get the benefits or meet the guidelines. Brief, ten-minute muscle strengthening activities such as push ups at the office or lunges in the elevator help you meet the weekly requirements and are just as effective as a class at the gym. There is no excuse not to incorporate these activities into your daily routine!
How can you add muscle strengthening to your day?
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