Incorporate strength training into your exercise routine

It’s easy and the benefits are huge – including better capacity to react to the unexpected and avoid falls.

Janet Cranston
Fit for Life

As we age it is natural for our bodies to lose muscle mass and it is more difficult to build strength. Maintaining strength allows us to enjoy an active lifestyle and also allows us to live independently for a longer period of time. Strength training is also good for keeping our bones strong and healthy.

The benefits of strength training are vast. In addition to helping burn more fat, a larger muscle mass is associated with a healthier heart, improved joint function, relief from arthritis pain and higher self-esteem. While many women do not strength train because they fear gaining weight, just the opposite occurs. Muscle mass is the primary fat burning furnace in the body. The more muscle mass you have, the more fat you burn. Increased strength also helps you react to the unexpected; as a result, the stronger you are the less likely you are to fall.

So now that you know why you should incorporate strength training into your regular exercise routine, where do you begin?

Resistance bands are a great tool that allows you to work all of your major muscle groups. They are inexpensive to purchase, and easy to store and carry, so they can be used at home, the office or on vacation. Resistance bands come in a variety of types, lengths and tensions. Some are flat and others are round with handles.

To begin, purchase a flat resistance band with a low level of resistance. If you are already fairly strong you may want to purchase a higher level of resistance. Resistance bands can be purchased at most fitness stores as well as medical supply stores. These stores will be able to help you purchase the correct length and resistance level. In general, your resistance band should be approximately five to six feet long.

The Canadian diabetes website offers some helpful videos on strength training.

There is a great video produced by Diabetes Canada that walks you through several exercises and explains how to do them properly. This video will help to get you going. Here is the link to this video:
http://www.diabetes.ca/clinical-practice-education/professional-resources/resistance-exercise-videos

Before beginning, check with your physician to ensure you are safe to incorporate strength training into your exercise routine and, as always, if you have health limitations please seek out a certified fitness professional to help create a safe strength-training program for your needs.

Janet Cranston is director of health and fitness at Reh-Fit Centre.

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