October 09, 2022
When you think of lifting weights, you might have a picture in your mind of a weightlifting competition with professional bodybuilders flexing their impossibly large muscles and strutting their stuff on stage. But bulking up your musculature is simply not necessary to increase your strength and benefit to your body.
Training for strength and training for muscle bulk are two completely different goals. Women do not have the hormonal environment to build “bulk” without long and rigorous professional training sessions and dietary guidance. The weightlifting goal is to build strength and there are significant health and longevity benefits to be had for women in doing so.
So what does strength training have to do with living longer?
A paper done in 2022 that reviewed many other studies on muscle strengthening found that those who participated in muscle strengthening activity had a 15 percent lower risk of dying from any cause during the period of time covered in the review. Resistance exercise, whether done with weights or exercise bands or in a gym using a machine also conferred a lower risk of heart and cardiovascular disease, cancer and even diabetes.
Plus, your level of muscular strength is a fantastic predictor of your future health, as women and men who are stronger have a much lower risk of dying during any specified time period than those with less strength. Strength training is especially helpful for you as you age because muscle function as well as bone health both naturally decline as you get older.
Weaker muscles can mean a greater risk of falling and poor bone health means a greater risk of a serious fracture if you do fall. Complications from a fall or the falls themselves are a leading cause of mortality in older adults. Strength training does not have to be complicated. Of course, if you have access to a gym then take advantage of these assets. But you can also do beginning strength training at home using your own body weight with no equipment or very simple hand weights or rubber tubing. Here’s a simple routine to try if you are a beginner that consists of just three exercises:
Chair squats - Stand in front of a chair, facing away from it. Avoid using a soft, squishy chair but choose one that is firm. Keeping your spine neutral and your head and chest raised, start to sit down until your buttocks just tap the chair. Don’t sit all the way down unless you absolutely have to do so. Then stand up and return to your starting position. Try to do 2 or 3 sets of 10 repetitions each.
Door jamb pulls - Stand in an open interior doorway and face one side, standing as close to it as you can get. Grasp the sides of the door frame with your fingers, then lean back, using your arms and upper body to support your weight. Using your arms and upper body, pull yourself back toward the door frame. Try to do 2 or 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Wall pushups - Face a wall in your house and stand about one arm’s length away. Place your hands flat on the wall with your fingers pointing up and your hands just a bit wider than shoulder width apart. Keep your hands just below shoulder level. Bend your elbows and bring your head and upper body toward that wall between your hands. Don’t move your feet. Next, push your body away from the wall back to where you started. Try 2 or 3 sets of 10 reps each.