Want to live longer? Grab some weights


Want to live longer? Grab some weights

Walking, running, biking and other aerobic exercise is undoubtedly beneficial for health, but a growing body of research reinforces the importance of strength training for longevity and quality of life.
“Cardio is important but if you’re just doing cardio, you’re not reaching your full potential,” says Michelle Dowd, clinical services director at Tidelands Health Pawleys Family YMCA.
Recent research found that two weekly strength training sessions that include exercises such as bicep curls, squats and presses— when combined with aerobic exercise — offer the best protection against chronic disease and can help you live longer.
Walking, cycling, running and other forms of aerobic exercise are great for the heart, lungs and circulatory system but do little to build muscle mass and strength, which is crucial for aging well and staying healthy, adds Dowd.
In studies supported by the National Institute on Aging, researchers found strength training offers a wealth of benefits and should be incorporated as part of a regular exercise routine.
Some of the ways strength training can benefit health:

Rebuilds and maintains muscle mass

As we age, muscles naturally weaken and diminish while body fat often increases. Strength training can help maintain or increase muscle mass while simultaneously burning fat, Dowd says.
Relying on your body weight to strengthen muscle is a good place to start. Resistance bands and free weights can be added as you progress. A full-body strength training workout that targets all the major muscle groups — upper, lower and core — should be performed at least two times per week with at least one day of rest between sessions to allow the body to recover, Dowd says. The key is to do enough repetitions (10-15) to fatigue the muscle. The last rep should be difficult to complete but not painful. If it’s not challenging, add more weight.

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At the YMCA of Coastal Carolina, you can benefit from classes and personal trainers to help you begin or advance your exercise program. Training is tailored to your unique needs and fitness level.
Tidelands Health is the exclusive health system partner of the YMCA of Coastal Carolina. Together, the two organizations are providing the community with access to a broad variety of services and programs to improve health and wellness.

Boosts metabolism

Strength training not only burns calories while you are working out but for days afterward as muscle becomes stronger.
“Because muscle tissue is the most metabolically active tissue in our body, it affects metabolic rate more significantly than fat,” Dowd says. “When we gain muscle tissue, we have more metabolically active tissue, which increases our calories burned even while we rest after our workout.”

Reduces fat

Being sedentary can cause extra fat to accumulate around the heart, which can force it to work harder. Strength training can help you lose excess body fat, which can help remove stress from the heart and other organs.
“You can still lose weight while you’re increasing muscle mass,” Dowd says.

Improves blood pressure and cholesterol levels

The weight loss associated with strength training coupled with improved circulation due to reduced body fat has been shown to lower blood pressure and produce more favorable blood lipid profiles, Dowd adds.

Increases bone density

Bone loss and osteoporosis are associated with muscle weakness. Because strength training can increase both muscle and bone mass, bone density can improve.

Lowers the risk of diabetes

People who stay active, work out regularly and incorporate strength training have a lower risk of developing diabetes, says Dowd.
“Skeletal muscle helps increase insulin sensitivity and reduces blood sugar levels,” she explains. “Essentially, it removes the glucose from the blood and sends it to the muscle cells. That results in more muscle mass, helping to improve blood sugar management.”

Elevates mood and feel-good brain chemicals

Exercise triggers the release of endorphins (feel-good hormones) in the brain, which can elevate mood and combat depression. Starting a strength-training program at home is a good place to begin but working out at a gym like the YMCA can be a major motivator.

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“At the gym, you get the social connection, which can be motivating,” Dowd says. “You’re not only releasing endorphins and boosting testosterone, but you’re also building community.”
The bottom line? Aerobic exercise is important, but strength training is equally as essential for living longer and healthier lives.
“I’m a firm believer that you can’t just do one thing and really get the results you’re looking for,” Dowd says. “If you’re doing your cardio, add in strength training and tweak your diet a little bit. That type of comprehensive approach can really improve health and quality of life, no matter your age.”

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