Like fashion, fitness trends have changed over the years. Who remembers Jane Fonda and Richard Simmonds encouraging us to “feel the burn” as we pumped away during aerobics class in our leotards and leg warmers? Well thank goodness we have come a long way since those days – in both our gym fashion and our training priorities!
Aerobic fitness (cardio exercise) is still crucial for our health, keeping our heart and lungs working efficiently, but we now have a greater understanding of the importance of strength training and its role in metabolic, skeletal, muscular and neurological health. Challenging our bodies with additional load stimulates these systems and ensures that we can maintain high function and optimal health as we age.
So let’s look at the reasons why aerobic exercise is only part of the solution and why strength training is so essential for our long-term health. The exercise revolution began back in the 1980s, when Fonda had us all jumping around our lounge rooms and changed the landscape of fitness facilities worldwide. The aerobics movement brought a new audience into gyms, with a huge array of classes that provided a fun way to exercise with friends. This was a real game changer, as it encouraged more women into the gym and made it a much more user-friendly space.
Extensive research now proves that strength training is also essential for health. Adding strength training to your routine is really important for your metabolic health and weight control. Aerobics (cardio exercise) will burn the calories but it is strength training that stimulates your muscle tissues and enhances a healthy metabolism. Your muscle tissue is a key factor in what determines your resting metabolic rate, so the more muscle you have, the higher chance of a healthy metabolism.
As we age, our bone health is also challenged, particularly post menopause for women. Our bones require the necessary stimulation under load to maintain their structure and this is where weight training has the biggest impact. We reach our maximum bone density in our 20s but what we need to focus on later in life is preventing bone loss, which is a naturally occurring part of the ageing process. Lifting heavy weights will stimulate bones and joints and help keep our bodies strong, also reducing the risk of falls.
Healthy exercise is also the best ways to maintain our neurological function. We know that protecting our memory is important and living an active and healthy lifestyle is our best defence against Alzheimer’s and dementia. Prevention is always better than cure when it comes to our health. So many diseases are associated with lifestyle risk factors that it’s imperative that we do everything we can to maximise our health on a daily basis. That certainly doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the good things in life but it does mean that moderation and balance become two concepts to remember and factor into our decision making.
Strength training is now recognised as one of the best forms of exercise for every age group but it does require some particular factors for success. Make sure that your program has been customised for you, based on a thorough movement and lifestyle assessment. As with all exercise, if it’s not done correctly it can do more harm than good. Therefore it pays to seek advice from a suitably qualified professional. The program should be suitable for your current level of fitness, with planned progressions to challenge and enhance your results.
Regular updates will keep you on track to stay fit and strong, regardless of age. Enjoy!
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.