"I’m an older woman and I wonder if it is worth the effort to try Resistance Training?"
Sarcopenia, the loss of muscle, is often associated with aging and can lead to frailty, impairments and a lowered quality of life. Resistance training is a method that has been successfully shown to help alleviate the occurrence or slow down the effects of sarcopenia. Resistance training is extremely important for maintaining your muscle and bone density, especially as you age. I think you should do resistance training because it doesn’t require a lot of time to complete and the benefits from it are tremendous. This will help in so many ways from ensuring that if you fall your bones won’t be as brittle to being able to carry your baby great-nephew without hurting your back to having more stamina for walking the dog to being able to pick up heavy groceries!
A study by Benton on untrained middle-aged women found that, regardless of frequency, training produced initial strength and lean body mass production. Whether training for 3 nonconsecutive days with traditional total-body work or 4 consecutive days with an alternating split-training protocol, both groups produced a positive correlation between gains in muscle mass and training volume and both groups had similar improvements. Benton writes that the muscle fiber characteristics in adults over 60 years of age can be changed with resistance training. Consider that training done for 2-3 days a week for only 12 weeks can produce muscle hypertrophy and increase type I and type II fibers, which affect your strength and muscular endurance. This is so important for being able to continue your activities of daily living uninhibited.
Trainers do not all agree about what type of resistance training you should do. Should you use free weights, machines, or body weight? First decide that you want to take your body in your hands (literally) and begin strengthening it. Then see what options are available where you like to work out – is there a program like Women on Weights or Weightlifting for Beginners? Those classes can help teach you basic safe form. I recommend free weights working your major muscle groups as a way to ease into resistance training or use the Cybex equipment machines which have fewer components to focus on during a lift and require less musculature that needs to be stabilized during the movements. Try a row – it will train your biceps as well as your lats, trapezius, rhomboids, posterior deltoids…(3 sets 10 reps 10 lbs). While you likely will not see as much result from lifting small free weights as you will from using more resistance, you need to get started. A row will allow for a greater load to be used since you will be engaging more musculature to assist with the movement. You can increase the intensity when you no longer tire. Just remember that compound movements that use multiple joints offer substantially greater benefits than single joint movements, ie. you’ll get more bang for your buck [time].
I have just begun a regimen using my own body weight and will eventually work up to using weights. I am doing body weight squats in parallel (it burns your glutes, hamstrings, quads, etc); scapula retractions and pushups. I’m already able to do more pushups (which works my pecs [chest], arms and back all at once. This training uses the weight of gravity against my body against me. I am only doing 2-3 x a week for 20 min. and I’m already seeing results. Body weight resistance training can be a little more daunting but if you want to try it – perhaps try taking a Pilates full-body class that will help you tone up but strengthen too!
Resistance training is a way to prevent muscle loss! Don’t lose your strength and your health. This is quick and easy to do and it will help keep you going – after all, you want to last long enough that you can play with your grandchildren.
Benton, M. J., Kasper, M. J., Raab, S. A., Waggener, G. T., & Swan, P. D. (2011). SHORT-TERM EFFECTS OF RESISTANCE TRAINING FREQUENCY ON BODY COMPOSITION AND STRENGTH IN MIDDLE-AGED WOMEN. [Article]. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(11), 3142-3149. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31820f505f
Benton, M. J., Whyte, M. D., & Dyal, B. W. (2011). Sarcopenic Obesity: Strategies for Management. [Article]. American Journal of Nursing, 111(12), 38-44. doi: 10.1097/01.naj.0000408184.21770.98