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Health and Wellbeing

21 Sep 2014

By Anton Pilli - Genesis Fitness Southbank

Strength training IS for everyone

No, this is not an article about how traditional strength training can be fun for everyone.

This is about why it is necessary for everyone – especially the non-athletic, the less active and the ageing population.

Once you cut through all the fluff and fashion that’s out there in the fitness world, two things remain which all humans physically need – a healthy heart and the basic strength to deal with life’s demands or unplanned events.

There’s not a doctor or exercise physiologist on the planet that won’t recommend that you plan some cardiovascular exercise at least two or three times a week if you’re not already getting it from your normal activity.

Strength is not as commonly promoted by GPs because it’s not as life-or-death as an ill ticker. It is however, just as important to your quality of life. Yes it is! 

For the young and naturally active or the labour-intensive worker, strength gains that pertain to a safe and active lifestyle are easy.

For those that live a life behind the desk or find their ageing or opulent lifestyle has lead them down the path of inactivity, focussed strength training is definitely a must.

So much documented research and advertising goes into how to make 20-35 year-olds stronger, faster or sexier, but it’s the 40+ age-group that need to focus on strength – in particular the strength they have lost.

This may sound like it comes from a point of bias, though I am passionate about this view. The older you get, the more you need to focus on strength training as part of your overall health plan. The older you get, the more you need a gym.

Why is it so? 
The fact is, as we age we lose muscle mass, we reduce our neuromuscular output, we lose flexibility and bone density.

When we live a sedentary lifestyle, we then accelerate these diminishing returns. Strength training can counter and improve all these problems or, worst-case scenario, slow it all down.

There are full physiological explanations of certain training types, but the bottom line is this: traditional forms of strength training will prepare and maintain you for life better than any other forms of training.

That is training at intensities that force change and adaptation, by testing your strength capacities each and every time you get to work out. Be it in specific movement patterns or for targeted muscle development or rehabilitation. That does not mean training at your sub-maximal efforts twice a week and expecting to force change – it won’t happen.

Read more about that concept in last month’s article.
 For the average or ageing person who is not athletically minded, you must consider the stresses in life that your body is not conditioned for by sitting at a desk or just going for easy walks. Lifting heavy boxes, running across the road, taking a fall and being twisted and stretched beyond your normal function, playing with the kids or grandkids, accepting invites to a game of golf or tennis.

The required basic strength and strength through a wide range of movement and angles are not achieved through modern pop fitness trends like a pump or Pilates class.

These things do not mimic the forces that your body must contend with if your 40kg son jumped on your back suddenly, if you had to contort yourself into a serve and volley, or you had to catch yourself as you tripped on the extension cord to the bar fridge.

These mentioned training modes are great complements to more important formats of exercise and should not be seen as sufficient to provide you a prolonged athletic life or protect you best from life’s ills.

The forces your body has to deal with in life are great and at times unpredictable. Your best chance of dealing with these and not breaking is to get you body as strong as possible.

Strength forms the foundation of all your physical capacities. If you don’t have it, or you limit it to the mundane, then do not expect too much.

I think Darwin came up with it – the strongest will survive.  Or actually I think he said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.”

So make a change. Train so you do get stronger and live the life you want – and make sure you look after that ticker too!

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