Building strength helps you stay healthy as well as fit
Use it or lose it. We start to lose muscle mass from age 30, but it’s never too late to improve it. If you do, it can help with balance, reduce your risk of falls, increase bone density, which will help guard against osteoporosis, and benefit heart health too. Another plus is that you’ll look more toned and feel more confident.
Have a plan. If you’ve had previous health problems or injuries, you can tailor your strength training—aka weight or resistance training—to your own needs. Book a session with a physio or personal trainer to be assessed and get a personalised plan.
Start small. Don’t go crazy—you’ll end up doing yourself a damage. There’s no need to go to the gym and lift dumbbells or kettlebells if that’s not your thing. Resistance bands—stretchy elastic strips—are just as good. In fact, they may make you less prone to injury. They come in different tension levels. You can even use your own body weight to build strength. There are plenty of free beginners’ workouts on YouTube and on the NHS website. Don’t forget to have rest days to allow your body to recover.
Set a goal. What do you want to achieve? Do you want to lose a few kilos, get fitter, look more toned, or improve muscle mass for health purposes? Or maybe it’s all of those. To lose weight, do more cardiovascular exercise, such as brisking walking, cycling or running. For example, do three days of cardio and two days of strength training. If you’re looking principally to tone up and build strength, do more resistance training than cardio. Or if you simply want to improve muscle mass, experts recommend doing activities that improve strength, balance and flexibility on at least two days a week.
Work out what to work on. Make sure you build in lower body exercises, as your legs support the rest of you. Focus on glutes (your bum), quads (muscles at the front of your thighs) and hamstrings (tendons at the back of your thighs) by doing regular squats and lunges. Having a strong core is essential, as this helps stability, balance and your back. To strengthen it, do isometric exercises such as planks and side planks.
Pack the protein. Building strength isn’t all about getting physical. You need to eat well too. Protein is key. Include it in all your meals in the form of lean meat, fish, beans, tofu, eggs or dairy produce. Focus on mixing protein and carbs, such as fruit, rice, sweet potato and quinoa, as these will help with muscle growth.
Be sociable. Exercising with others will help you stay motivated and it’s always nice to be with like-minded people. Find an exercise buddy, such as a friend or family member; do live Zoom classes or go to in-real-life gym classes.
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