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Published on August 07, 2018

weight training at the gym

#TryItTuesday: A Simple Step to A Stronger You

According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, you need to do two types of physical activity each week to improve your health–aerobic and muscle-strengthening.

For important health benefits, adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week and muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups.

Did you know that less than one-quarter of adults older than 45 meet the muscle-strengthening recommendations set by the Department of Health and Human Services? It's true.  

For today’s #TryItTuesday, we are going to talk about muscle-strengthening activities and why they are so important to our health, especially as we age.

Muscle Strengthening - What Is It?

Muscle-strengthening activities should work all the major muscle groups of your body, including your legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders and arms.

To gain health benefits, they need to be done to the point where it's hard for you to do another repetition without help. A repetition is one complete movement of an activity, like lifting a weight or doing a sit-up. Try to do 8 to 12 repetitions per activity, and then count that group as one set. Try to do at least one set of muscle-strengthening activities, but to gain even more benefits, do multiple sets. Aim for three.

You can do activities that strengthen your muscles on the same or different days that you do aerobic activity, whatever works best. Just keep in mind that muscle-strengthening activities don't count toward your aerobic activity total.

There are many ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether it's at home or the gym. You may want to try the following:

  • Lifting weights (Free weights or weight-training machines)
  • Working with resistance bands
  • Doing exercises that use your body weight for resistance (i.e., push ups, sit ups, squats)
  • Heavy gardening (i.e., digging, shoveling)
  • Yoga
  • Hill walking

Health Benefits of Muscle-Strengthening Activities

Strengthening or resistance exercises help keep strong the muscles that support your back, abdomen, knees, chest, shoulders, neck and wrists. Strong muscles mean you are less likely to get injured.

Strong muscles also mean greater endurance and energy, a faster metabolism to burns more calories as well as better posture. When you look at the benefits, they all make sense:

  • Strengthening your lower back and abdominal muscles can help stabilize the spine, allow proper spinal movement, and help with posture.
  • Strengthening hip and leg muscles can help you safely lift objects from the floor using your leg muscles rather than those in your back.
  • Strengthening exercises also build muscle mass. The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn all day.
  • Strengthening exercises can help make your bones stronger, which helps with the prevention of osteoporosis.

Let's Get Started

Talk with your health care provider if you are unsure about doing a particular exercise, especially if you’ve had hip or back surgery.

You should do muscle-strengthening activities that work all seven major muscle groups at least two days per week. Those muscle groups being the legs, hips back, chest, abdominals, shoulders and arms. It’s essential that you work each of these seven muscle groups a minimum of twice a week, in addition to your aerobic activity. A few additional guidelines:

  • When using weights, start out slowly and increase weight gradually.
  • Don’t hold your breath during strength exercises. Holding your breath while straining can cause changes in blood pressure. Breathe in slowly through your nose and breathe out slowly through your mouth.
  • Breathe out as you lift or push and breathe in as you relax.
  • For some exercises, you may want to start alternating arms and work your way up to using both arms at the same time.
  • To prevent injury, don’t jerk or thrust weights. Use smooth, steady movements.

Muscle soreness lasting a few days and slight fatigue are normal after muscle-building exercises, at least at first. After doing these exercises for a few weeks, you will probably not be sore after your workout.

No Gym, No Worries

Don’t let not having a gym membership stop you from doing muscle-strengthening exercises at least twice a week. Here are some muscle-strengthening exercises you can do at home:

  • Squats
  • Push-ups
  • Crunches
  • Walking Lunges
  • Tricep Dips
  • Squats

If you want to add a little weight to your work out and you don’t have any free weights, check out your pantry. Soup cans or water bottles work great for adding a little extra weight to your exercise routine.

Take action today and start a weight-resistance program. If you stick with your strengthening program, within a few weeks, you’ll begin to feel stronger.

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