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Several things happen as we age that can affect our fitness level and everyday functioning. For example, decreasing hormones cause our muscles to atrophy, our bones to weaken and we become better “insulated” with fat.
You don’t have to give in to aging without a fight! A proper exercise plan can not only slow these processes but potentially reverse them.
So what’s the secret? Exercise, of course! One of the most important things we can do as we get older is stick with a proper fitness program, especially one that emphasizes weight training.
Exercising with machines or free weights can increase natural levels of muscle-building hormones, decrease the rate at which we accumulate fat, and increase our overall lean body or muscle mass. As we build muscle and get stronger, our bodies burn more calories to stay alive every day. This is because muscle mass requires more calories, even at rest.
Working with weights — body weight, machines, or free weights — slows bone loss associated with osteoporosis. The stress placed on the bones and muscles by weight-bearing exercises, or even walking, causes the body to respond by building up the bones. Proper supplementation with vitamin D and calcium can also slow bone loss.
Training with weights increases hormone levels like testosterone and estrogen, both of which are responsible for building up our muscles and bones. Insulin is another hormone that is altered by regular exercise. This hormone is responsible for regulating our blood sugar and storing carbs for later use during exercise. Exercise enhances insulin sensitivity, or the ability of the hormone to work, even in people with diabetes.
Regular exercise enhances fat loss too. Losing weight is a math equation that is solved by burning more calories than you take in. Exercise makes it easy to burn calories and therefore lose weight, provided the intensity and type is right.
If you are curious what an exercise program should look like, the answer is much simpler than you think. Start with lower body exercises and work your way up!
Choose exercises that work large muscle groups at an intensity that is right for you. For example, use the leg press for lower body exercise. This machine choice allows you to use a higher amount of weight than a free weight squat with a lower amount of stress on the back and the hips. Large muscle group exercises, like leg, back and chest exercises, burn the most calories due to the larger muscle groups involved.
To get all the benefits mentioned above, add these exercises to your current routine:
Strength training should be done 2-3 days per week with at least 24-48 hours rest between sessions, as your muscles need time to recover. A sample exercise program should look something like this:
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday: Strength training
Tuesday, Thursday: Cardiovascular training
Monday, Wednesday, Friday: Cardiovascular training
Tuesday, Thursday: Strength training
Need help getting started on an exercise program? Sign up for a session with a personal trainer at Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness!
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