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Live Vibrantly - October 29, 2020

Strength Training’s Effects on Health, Quality of Life and Stroke Risk

by Carson Fralin

According to the World Stroke Organization, “1 million strokes a year are linked to physical inactivity. By getting the recommended amount of exercise each week you will reduce your risk of having a stroke. Just 30 minutes of exercise five times a week can reduce your risk of stroke by 25%.”

In recognition of World Stroke Day, I wanted to encourage you to focus on fitness!

Next Step of Your Comprehensive Plan

In a previous post, I reviewed the components of fitness and explained the importance of engaging in a comprehensive exercise routine. Practicing different forms of exercise helps us to address multiple components of fitness and achieve better health outcomes.

Many Americans tend to favor aerobic exercise over other forms of exercise. In fact, 53% of Americans over the age of 18 meet guidelines for aerobic physical activity, but only 23.2% meet the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle strengthening activity. This bias toward aerobic exercise may be the result of individuals having more knowledge of the benefits of aerobic exercise as opposed to the benefits of strength training. Americans also tend to know more about how to perform aerobic exercise than they do the many different exercises involved in a strength training workout. Herein lies the issue and with that, the very answer to the problem. Education!

This article is going to break down and highlight the benefits of strength training and how it complements aerobic exercise as an integral part of a comprehensive exercise routine.

Improve Your Strength with Resistance

Strength training is an important part of achieving and maintaining your fitness and health throughout your lifespan. It is the primary means of improving and maintaining bone health and muscle mass, preventing orthopedic pathologies, postponing and even reversing sarcopenia (a skeletal muscle disease involving accelerated loss of muscle mass and function) and prolonging independent living.

Resistance Exercise Training (RET) is a form of strength training, where an individual uses objects such as free weights to load muscles as a form of resistance. RET has been proven over decades of research studies as the most effective form of exercise to improve and maintain muscle mass and strength as we age. RET has been shown to improve muscle quality and fatigue resistance, while increasing bone mineral density and reducing blood pressure to an equal or greater extent than aerobic exercise training.

Aerobic exercise was once thought to be the sole form of exercise that reduced body fat and insulin resistance. Yet numerous studies over the past couple of decades have shown that RET is an effective treatment for reducing body fat and insulin resistance. One study RET also reduces your risk of falls and of injury from falling, which can adds years to independent living.

The Benefits of Strength Training

Your state of fitness isn’t the only benefit of strength training. Your level of health and risk of disease can improve too. A study conducted in 2019 reported that those who meet muscle strengthening guidelines tend to have lower prevalence of hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, heart attacks and heart disease than those only meeting aerobic exercise guidelines.

Still think your morning bike ride is all you need? Thinking about the bigger picture is important when it comes to your fitness and health. You’re only as strong as your weakest link!

As with aerobic exercise, there exists a dose-response relationship between RET and health benefits. Higher intensities, higher volume (higher repetitions and/or sets) and greater frequency (performing RET more times per week) results in greater improvements in strength and muscle mass.

How to Add Strength Training to Your Fitness Regime

If you’ve decided to incorporate strength training into your fitness regime, you might consider adding RET to your workouts twice a week for a month. Getting into routine and finding the right balance between effort and length of your workout will help you figure out how to add more RET days in your week. After a month or two performing RET twice a week, try adding a third RET day to the week or simply add a few resistance exercises to one of your aerobic exercise days. Assuming that you are also performing aerobic exercise a minimum of twice per week, this routine can still keep you on a four day per week exercise routine if you have a busy schedule. When making time for exercise on your schedule remember that this time is a reflection of your commitment to your health and well-being. The more you put in, the more you get out.

Thanks for taking time to join me in recognizing World Stroke Day and growing your focus on your fitness! See you in fitness center!

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Carson Fralin is Recreation Coordinator at Goodwin House Alexandria. Carson is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach having worked with populations all across the spectrum with more than eight years of experience working with older adults. Having received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in exercise physiology at Virginia Commonwealth University, he has used his education and experience to apply concepts of functional training to help others attain the highest degree of fitness for both performance and attaining a better quality of life.

References

Mihalko SL, McAuley E. Strength training effects on subjective wellbeing and physical function in the elderly. J Aging Phys Activity. 1996; 4:56–68.

Beniamini Y, Runenstein JJ, Zaichkowsky LD, Crim MC. Effects of high-intensity strength training on quality-of-life parameters in cardiac rehabilitation patients. Am J Cardiol. 1997; 80:841–846.

Bennie, J. A., De Cocker, K., Teychenne, M. J., Brown, W. J., and Biddle, S. J. H. (2019). The epidemiology of aerobic physical activity and muscle-strengthening activity guideline adherence among 383,928 U.S. adults. Int. J. Behav. Nutr. Phys. Act. 16:34. doi: 10.1186/s12966-019-0797-2.

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