Aerobic exercise is important, but strength training keeps your skin spry and reduces your risk of having flabby areas on your body sag.
Strength training is actually one of the best ways to improve the longevity of your weight-loss effects. Strength and resistance training help to reduce functional decline and loss of endurance.
It can also reduce symptoms of many chronic diseases, such as arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, back pain, and depression.
Experts now realize just how important toning exercises are to your overall health and longevity. “Every health professional will agree that strength training is essential for health, injury prevention, and prolonging quality of life,” says certified strength and conditioning specialist Cody Foss, director at the NYA Sports & Fitness Center in Newtown, Connecticut. In fact, the more muscle mass you have, the longer you’ll live.
Tips on Toning Exercises
If you’re learning how to build muscle for the first time, it’s important to start slowly to avoid overexerting yourself, says Dr. Westmoreland. “The major consideration before embarking on strength training as an older adult is to make sure that, from a cardiovascular standpoint, you are fit to start,” she says.
Always get the okay from your primary care physician before you begin a new exercise routine. If you have osteoporosis, and particularly if you’ve had compression fractures of the vertebrae in your back, you should get your doctor’s permission before doing floor exercises.
Once you receive clearance from your doctor, walking is a good way to start. Then, as your fitness improves, you can incorporate some light strength-training exercises into your routine.
Simple Strength-Training Exercises
Val Walkowiak, the medical integration coordinator at Loyola Center for Fitness in Chicago, recommends doing the following exercises every other day to strengthen your core:
- Abdominal Twist Sit in an armless chair with your feet flat on the floor and shoulder-width apart. Your hands should be in the center of your torso and your elbows along your sides. Slowly twist to the right, then to the left. Your shoulders should face to the right and then to the left during the movement, but you should not be swinging your arms from side to side. Do two to three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions.
- Lying Abdominal Crunch Lie on your back with your legs bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands by your ears. Keep your elbow and shoulder joints aligned during the movement. Slowly curl your upper body upward until your rib cage comes up off the floor. The goal is to create a “C” with your torso by bringing your chest toward your legs. Don’t let your lower back come up off the floor, just your rib cage. Perform two to three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions.
- Pelvic Tilts Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Pull your belly button in toward your spine until your abdominal muscles feel tight. Slowly shift your pelvis up toward the ceiling until you feel your lower back press against the floor. Your buttocks should not come off the floor. Return to starting position. This exercise works the lower portion of the abdominal muscles.
- Bridges Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Pull your belly button in toward your spine. Slowly lift your torso off the floor until you’ve formed a bridge with your body. Your upper back, shoulders, and head should remain on the floor. Return your body to the floor and repeat. Perform two to three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions.
Adding a strength training component to your fitness routine doesn’t have to be complicated, and the benefits to your overall health — including reducing your chances of flailing health and increasing your mobility — are more than worth the time it requires.