Summertime fun has arrived, bringing longer days, warmer temperatures and festive activities surrounding the Fourth of July holiday. As our focus turns to the blessings of our independence as a nation, and the privilege of living in such a wonderful country, let’s talk about personal independence, and how we maintain that as we age.
One of the most critical determinants of maintaining independence, from a physiological perspective, is the totality of strength we possess as we age. Our muscles, joints and bones, when conditioned appropriately, allow us to perform all the activities of daily life independently. Once our bodies start to deteriorate, because of lack of use or too much time sitting, we become unable to perform all of the essential tasks and the potential for injury (such as a fall) becomes a reality. Once we suffer an injury, a downward spiral effect can result, and ultimately, we lose our independence. This creates not only a physical challenge but, equally as important, a mental and emotional problem when we lose autonomy and personal choice.
You may have noticed a change in your ability to get up out of a chair, walk the dog or lift groceries out of the car. When everyday activities start to feel much more strenuous, these are potential signs of a loss in strength and should be attended to promptly.
After age 30, without a strength-training program, we lose up to 5% of our muscle mass per decade. This results in lower metabolism and, ultimately, weight gain. Our muscles (lean mass) keep our metabolism up and allow us to burn more calories, rather than storing them in the form of body fat. Listed below are just a few of the additional benefits associated with strength training:
Decreased pain and stiffness from chronic conditions such as lower back pain and arthritis.
Better balance, reducing the risk of a life-changing fall.
Improved regulation of blood sugar.
Better quality sleep.
Confidence, creating increased mental health and a feeling of well-being.
Are you interested in starting a program? First, it is essential to get the green light from your doctor. Your physician can provide important guidelines to prevent injury. Next, enlist the help of a well-credentialed exercise professional who can create a customized program to keep you motivated and progressing at a safe and effective rate. I recommend working with a professional for at least the first month, twice a week minimum, and then periodically to make sure you are working with proper form and technique. It is also crucial to modify your program periodically to keep you interested and on track to meet your goals.
I wish you all a wonderful Fourth of July. Nurture your personal independence with strength training, and your body will thank you for years to come! QCBN
By Lisa Fry, QCBN
Lisa Fry is the Health and Fitness director for Touchmark at The Ranch. Her responsibilities include overseeing the Touchmark Health & Fitness Club. Membership is open to anyone aged 50 and over. To reach Lisa or for more information, call 928-708-3133.