The message is clear about physical activity - we need to be doing a minimum of 30 minutes per day on most days of the week. What is less clear is the importance of combining cardiovascular exercise with strength training. In truth, they go hand-in-hand in the quest for personal health.
So, why is strength training important? Let's look at it from the flip side - what happens if we do not do some form of weight-bearing exercise? For every decade over age 50, there is a 6 percent muscle mass loss, which decreases strength by 10 to 15 percent. With only two months of strength training, there is a 40 percent increase in strength. The best way to keep frailty at bay is through strength training.
Strength training has multiple benefits that are well documented in the research literature. For example, for those contemplating knee or hip replacement surgery, research has shown that recovery is faster because the muscles surrounding the joint are better able to support the new joint. For those suffering from arthritis pain, strength training has been shown to decrease pain over time as the muscles surrounding the joints become stronger and, again, are better able to support the joint.
Some other potential benefits of strength training include: improved balance; weight loss due to increased metabolism; increased muscle tone; reduced hypertension; improved glucose control; reduction in symptoms of depression; increased self-esteem and personal confidence; and increased bone density.
One of the country's leading proponents of strength training is Dr. Miriam E. Nelson of Tufts University in Boston. Nelson authored several books on the subject, including "Strong Women Stay Young," "Strong Women and Men Beat Arthritis" and "Strong Women, Strong Bones." For more information, visit the website (strongwomen.com).
If you would like to start a strength training class in your community, call me at 857-6450 or drop me an email at
email@example.com. I am a certified trainer of the Strong Women programs and would be happy to get a group started!
(Ellen M. Bjelland is a Ward County Extension Agent in Family and Consumer Science with the North Dakota State University Extension Service.)