Strength training is used more today to round out exercise regimes, especially for the “Baby Boomer” population. This addition compliments the previous focus on cardiovascular fitness programs. Evidence shows that strength training is not only good for activities of daily living, but also improves balance and helps with weight management and memory. Muscle strength involves coordination of nerve messages getting to the individual muscle fibers, which requires chemical messengers called neurotransmitters to link muscle and nerve function. Weight/strength training stimulates the production of these neurotransmitters, which also may boost memory.
Some of my patients are taking responsibility to keep themselves fit with a daily exercise routine but find that they are injuring themselves with the same routine they have done for years. Upon questioning, we find individuals are doing weight lifting of only certain muscles around a particular joint, usually the areas of the body that are easily seen. In doing so, imbalances can develop. Some people try to progress with their programs quicker than their bodies can handle. Some start off at too heavy a load and try to push through the exercise despite what their body says. Others do techniques or exercises with a higher risk for injury. Still others take statin drugs to lower their cholesterol but are not taking Co-Q 10 which gets depleted when taking statin drugs, thus reducing the body’s ability to produce muscle energy. Plus, add in the aging factor where muscle mass and strength decrease with each decade of life.
Most people who do weight training know that exercise is done gradually and every other day to allow for the muscle fibers to build with a day of rest between workouts. It is important to understand the different types of workout routines depending on your goals, whether to tone, bulk, increase strength or increase stamina.
Muscles are made up of different types of fibers; some are better suited for strong bursts of energy and others better suited for endurance activities. People have different ratios of each of these fibers, so that is why some people are better at long distance running and others are better at sprints.
Nutrition can make a difference in how muscle performs. Many books have been written on the subject, specific for various types of athletic events.
For the majority of us who just want to stay standing and functional for as long as we can as we age, there are simpler guidelines to follow, but it may help to get some guidance with an exercise program if you feel you are straining, plateauing or have gotten into a rut. Changing a routine may enhance brain function and muscle efficiency and get you to a new level with less risk for injury.
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