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    Are You Strength Training?

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | March 10th, 2024

    Are You Strength Training?

    I would indulge more than usual during the holidays for many years. Even if I gained 3 – 5 pounds, I knew that I would drop the  weight when Lent came around. During Lent, I gave up on most things and was highly disciplined in my eating. I would lose the weight and be set for the rest of the year until the holidays rolled up again. Two years ago, Lent came around, but when the Lenten period was over, the weight stayed with me. I was shocked. My baseline weight was creeping up. I worked out more and ate less, but my weight did not budge. Wow, I thought – this is what my patients have told me all these years – “One day you will reach an age when you just see food and gain weight.”

    I did not indulge this past holiday like I did in the past. I am in the Lenten season, and I continue to give up what I usually give up, but this time, I decided to add to my Lenten regime. I get up at 5:00 without pressing the snooze button. I meditate, stretch, and get on my rowing machine. I renewed my membership to the YMCA ( I discontinued the membership with COVID-19 in 2020). I signed up for the BODYPUMP™ class, and what a difference this has made.

    If you have not yet incorporated strength training into your exercise routine, you are missing out. Strength training is essential, especially as you age. It makes you stronger and improves your flexibility and balance. Studies have shown that there are much more benefits to strength training, and these include:

    Boost your moods—Strength training increases blood flow to the brain and releases mood-enhancing brain hormones. It is protective against depression and anxiety.

    Lowers your risk of Type 2 diabetes -Strength training builds muscle mass, which makes the insulin you produce in the body work well. Strength training also improves blood glucose levels.

    Prevents heart disease – Strength training may be better than aerobic exercise for your heart. Strength training strengthens the heart (remember, the heart is a muscle) and the blood vessels. It helps decrease blood pressure and improves cholesterol. Doing this reduces your risk of heart disease by 70%.

    Prevents Dementia—Strength training builds brain cells, especially the gray matter, which in turn decreases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

    Improves the symptoms of chronic kidney disease – Kidney disease causes muscle wasting. When you add strength training and aerobics, the symptoms of chronic kidney disease are improved.

    Keeps you on your feet – When your muscles are strong, you are at a decreased risk of falling.

    Burns calories efficiently – Building muscles increases your metabolic rate. When you have muscles, you can burn more calories while resting.

    If you have been reading my blogs, I have mentioned that I hate strength training. I could walk a half marathon, but it takes a lot of willpower for me to do the strength training. Not anymore. Strength training is a valuable component of exercise. You want to rest your muscles, so if you are doing whole-body strengthening, you should do it about 2 -3 times a week. Some exercises can be done every day, like the sit to stand exercise. As one gets older, just getting up can be a chore.

    For strength training, you can use your body weight, resistance bands, free weights, or go to the gym. I have free weights at home but needed to sign up with the YMCA to not only participate in classes but to learn how to use my free weights properly. Also, being part of a class pushes me to do more. If you prefer something else to the gym, there are several videos you can watch. The YMCA offers virtual courses. Some jobs assist in payment to the YMCA. Some gyms and community centers provide discounted rates to join based on your income.

    The ultimate goal is to ensure that you are healthy enough to do all that you want to do as you age. As my mother always says to me – Movement is Life, and we do that by having an exercise regimen that includes strength training, aerobics, flexibility, and balance.

    2 Responses to “Are You Strength Training?”

    1. Linda K. Jackson says:

      Again, after all these years, I find out more about you! lol. I also row for exercise! I have a rowing machine here at home, after first being introduced to rowing almost 20 years ago. It’s the one exercise that I know I’ll stick with! I’ve also read that rowing is a form of strength exercise. I also like the “sit to stand” exercise.
      “…see food and gain weight.” When I turned 60, I could just walk down the ice cream aisle at the grocery store, and gain 5 pounds!!!!!! When I got on the scale, I said “I was only looking!!!!!!” I’ve found that not eating after 8:00 p.m. has helped me to lose a few pounds.
      Thank you again sooo much for your loving wisdom!

      • Ngozi Osuagwu, MD says:

        Thank you for sharing. I was laughing out loud when you described what happens walking down the ice cream aisle. I get it.

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