Be Fit For Life

with Ellen Cohen-Kaplan

Weight training: The essential element for maximizing your years ahead

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This week  was spectacular for weather, and I’m so thrilled to be out on my bike, enjoying the perfect temperatures and sunny, breezy days. People regularly ask me what I do for my workouts and the answer is ……cross-train! I’m lucky in that I love a lot of different types of exercise, including but not limited to dance, cycling, swimming, walking, swimming, and yoga. Those are my favorite types of exercise, but I have a little known secret- I’m not crazy about weight training. However, it’s absolutely essential to do, as our resting metabolic rate decreases as we age, primarily because our lean muscle mass declines. Thankfully, we can counteract this effect by doing weight training that is challenging, and occurs at least twice a week.

You need not spend more than 15-20 minutes doing weight training (also called resistance training)  twice a week, but you do need to challenge your muscles. Be sure to lift what your bones, joints and muscles can tolerate, without straining anything. For example, if you can lift 12 pounds doing bicep curls or shoulder presses for 8-12 repetitions, and  cannot  lift more reps than that without losing good form, there’s your “sweet spot”. If you can pump out 15 reps, but during the last 3, your body contorts in strange ways, stick to the 12 reps. You should do at least 2 sets, as recent studies have shown that people gain a much larger benefit going from one to two sets, than they do going from two sets to three sets. Here’s a link to an article that will give you more information about weight training and its relevance to aging well- with strength, grace and consciousness.  Cut and paste this onto your browser to access the information.

Take away points:

  • you must weight train to maintain and/or increase strength, and keep your metabolism stoked
  • your repetition of weight training should be no more than 12 with the heaviest weights you can manage, without straining muscles, bones or joints
  • try to avoid extended periods of time (my window is 3 days, but the article cites 3 weeks) of no exercise to avoid the detraining effect

One point I’ll add that isn’t stated explicitly in the article is that your chances for success improve if the exercise isn’t something you dread. Even some of my most self-proclaimed exercise-hating clients enjoy it more when done 1:1 with me, or in my classes because of the social element. Also, others who state that there is NO exercise they enjoy may realize there is SOMETHING they like to do, such as dancing or walking fast, but it may not be what they think of as “exercise”. Last but not least,  once people feel some sense of mastery over a type of exercise, they enjoy it much more. I get a big kick out of my clients who realize they are in fact very strong and can bench more weight than someone who is 20 or 30 years younger. This is in spite of the fact they’ve never exercised before the age of 45, and considered themselves really poor athletes in school. Power on, and find something that works. When we’re all leaning on our canes in our 90’s exercising together, you’ll thank me and yourself for finding a way to make it work!



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