Patient Tip of the Week: Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Worcester has many great outdoor programs in this beautiful setting right in the city. A patient just told me she did the Snowshoeing for Families program this past weekend (luckily it was not cancelled due to snow). There are several more dates available this winter and plenty of snow to enjoy! See the brochure for this and other programs.
I am going to try to keep this concise. There are SO many ways we miss the “forest for the trees” in strength training – so it may be difficult to fit it all in one blog.
The myths that just wont die… muscle weighs more than fat, I need to lose weight and then tone, I don’t want get big bulky muscles.. yada, yada, yada – all of these myths and more keep folks from holding onto their strength, balance, posture, support for joints and metabolism while losing weight and/or aging. Big Picture…..Do not be afraid of strength training!!!! Muscle is your BEST FRIEND when you are aging and losing weight. Especially women, but we all are at risk for losing muscle, strength, and metabolism with aging and with weight loss. If you have had weight loss surgery, you are at a much higher risk of losing muscle because of the rapid weight loss. Eating protein alone will not hold onto the muscle. Keep it awake – strength train!!
The numbers game of how much weight should I lift? how many reps, sets, days? Competing for who can lift more weight. Really, our muscles do not know numbers! They only know if they are challenged or not. Not challenged and they atrophy – which means they basically hibernate. When we say “lose muscle” – the muscle fibers are still there – they just shut down like a bear in hibernation. Each muscle contains a whole bunch of muscle fibers. The ones you use stay awake and help you stay strong, keep metabolism up, support the joints they are attached to and stimulate bone growth. So, if you do light weights for toning, not bulking – you are only using a small portion of muscle fibers – the others go into hibernation. Lift the amount of weight that allows you to keep proper form and causes muscle fatige in about 8-15 repetitions. Do this consistently and you will help to keep those muscles, and your metabolism from going into hibernation.
Challenge all of the muscles – not just the doing a bunch of bench press for the chest muscles or crunches the front core muscles. All of them – upper back, lower back, small muscles in the shoulder, etc.
Doing exercises to exercise better versus function better – I blogged on this a few weeks ago. In strength training the goal is to be able to lift things easier, push doors open without a problem, shovel snow without back pain and shoulder pain, carry laundry up the stairs easily… not just to do more push ups and plank longer (unless that is your true goal). So your exercises should mimic every day life movements with proper alignment/form and using the right muscles. I will expand more of this in future blogs. For now just ask yourself why am I doing this exercise?
Program design – if you are going to be a body builder than do a body builder program. If not, do a program that is designed for your lifestyle – the movements you want to be stronger for. Similar to choosing the exercises that fit your goal, the program type should fit your goal too. Many people are doing a body building program because that is what their friend or trainer told them to do, but it is not designed for weight loss or function. So ask, what is this program designed for?
The basic recommendation is 8-15 repetition of exercises working all the major muscle groups. When just starting a program, choose a very light weight/resistance and give yourself about two weeks to gradually work up to a weight that fatigues the muscles by the last repetition. Each exercise should be done for 1-3 sets on 2-3 non-consecutive days a week (ie every other day) to help you build strength and metabolism. With the sets, take 2-3 minutes rest for that muscle between the sets. That does not mean you have to sit around. Do another muscle group while you wait. For example, alternate doing exercises for upper body and lower body. These are general guidelines. If you have questions specific to you, please feel free to email me.
Please don’t miss out on the benefits of strength training because of myths or a program that consumes too much of your time. Strength training can be one of the easiest yet most powerful ways to keep yourself moving with aging and keep your weight where you want it to be. When I see weight loss patients who are losing weight and not doing strength training I believe I cannot emphasize this enough! The scale does not tell you if you lost muscle. If you are not using those muscle fibers and are losing weight you could very well be sending them, and your metabolism, into hibernation.
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
Keep Moving, Be Well