Tribune Print Share Text

Muscle strengthening is key to good health

Created date

January 5th, 2016

The very best investment you can make in your short- and long-term health is engaging in physical activity. The benefits are extraordinary and range from prevention of heart attack, stroke, and dementia to better sleep and bone health. Despite increased awareness of this, active seniors remain a minority. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that only about 40% of seniors meet recommended aerobic physical activity guidelines. And when it comes to muscle strengthening, which is just as beneficial, even fewer (20%) meet CDC guidelines. 

That means that 80% of seniors are not doing an activity that is essential for their health. People who exercise tend to have greater mobility, less joint pain, less chance of developing osteoporosis, and a greatly reduced risk of falling—which dramatically reduces your risk of hip fracture. More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls, and falling is the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries in seniors. If you have fallen once, you double your chances of falling again. 

While muscle strengthening is just one part of fall prevention, it is a crucial part. Strong muscles also support your bones and joints, and many studies have shown that people with knee pain get relief by exercising their leg muscles—the same is true for people with back pain.

No fancy equipment necessary 

Beneficial exercises often do not require a major time commitment. You may be surprised to learn that three days a week is all it takes. Be sure to work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms) but not necessarily during the same exercise session. Fancy equipment is not needed, either. Items such as cans of soup and therapeutic elastic bands can be sufficient for most people to get the job done. If you really want to save time, you can get both types of exercise benefits from a single activity—gardening for instance—especially if you are repeating the same movement several times in a row and it involves some effort.

Physical activity is the very best investment in your short- and long-term health. Please find a way to make it fun, get it done (add music, find an exercise partner), and stick to it!