Strength is important, whether you’re 25, 55, or 85. Back in the day, the prevailing belief about aging and physical activity was that as we get older, we become frail and prone to injury and, therefore, we should take it easy—not exert ourselves. Today, we know that unless we engage in regular physical activity, we can become frail and be at a higher risk of injury. In addition, without the strength and fitness we gain through exercise, we cannot enjoy our highest quality of life.
It’s also true that gains in strength and fitness can be had at any age. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), regular strength training (like the Curves workout) can significantly boost strength in older adults in just three to four months, and that increase in fitness tends to lead to spontaneous activity, which in turn raises fitness levels even higher.
Writing about strength training for the ACSM, Wayne Wescott, PhD, ID, states that, “Numerous studies have demonstrated that relatively brief sessions (e.g., 12 to 20 total exercise sets) of regular strength training (two or three nonconsecutive days per week) can increase muscle mass in adults of all ages through the 10th decade of life.”
One study out of the University of Vermont, looking at the effects of strength training among men and women 65 years of age and older, compared a group of non-exercisers with a group who participated in a 12-week strength training program. At the end of the 12 weeks, the researchers found that the strength-training group had stronger leg muscles and had improved their walking endurance by 38 percent.
Increased endurance is only one of the benefits of a boost in strength. Stronger muscles help you perform everyday activities—carrying groceries, household chores, picking up your grandkids—with ease. You have better balance and stability when your legs, hips, and core are strong. Fun activities—dancing, tennis, golf, hiking—become more fun when you are physically fit. Increased muscle even helps prevent disease. It raises metabolism, which aids your weight-management efforts, and as a consumer of glucose, muscle helps you prevent or manage diabetes.
ACSM recommends that older adults follow a 30-minute strength training program that works every major muscle group in the body on three nonconsecutive days a week. Does that sound familiar? Like the Curves workout perhaps?