Strength training saves the muscles

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a healthy body as one that is in a ‘state of complete physical and mental well-being… By health we mean the powerful force to live a full, adult living, breathing life in proximity with people and things that you love. For you to realise all that you are capable of being and doing.’

Strength training acts as a buffer to prevent and/or postpone muscular decline. Probably because our legs, which bear our weight almost all the time, are normally the first to register the decline. Perhaps that is the originator of the terms ‘no leg to stand on’ and ‘on his last legs’. Be that as it may, the legs are the best visible indicators of our fitness.

But the alert body has an even earlier indicator: soreness — a surer pointer to the weakness within. ­Fascia, sheets of tissue that lie below the skin, are often the first in this challenge that the body faces. Jan Wilke, a professor of sports science in Austria, points out the role of fascia. And recommends ‘a dynamic warm-up that will make the tissue more resilient to the work-out ahead.’

Strength training is not just bodybuilding — the hard rock muscular equivalent of the body’s stretch-and strain resistance routine — it’s rock ‘n’ roll. Living at the optimum level and counter-balancing age-related loss are the reasons to go in for strength training. You don’t play a game to get fit, but, rather, get fit to play a sport. This is true of life itself. It is a high stakes game with your body itself on the line.

If you don’t use it, you lose it is one sure way of shedding muscle mass and strength. Inactivity breeds sarcopenia which is a common condition of a host of health issues: lack of balance, cardiovascular diseases and metabolic illnesses. But then, again, arthritis is also often caused by overused or abused muscle over a period of time — the other end of the sarcopenia scale. Life is truly a balancing act and art.

Therefore, it is wiser to include strength-training exercises as soon as possible. Because the decline in muscle strength occurs much quicker than the fall in the size of the muscle. The decline normally shows up around age 60 but it can also set in earlier — around 40. Women are particularly vulnerable to these vagaries during the premature/regular/post-­menopause stage. An appropriate strength training routine will further define and sculpt your physique and not make you appear ‘masculine’ either. All the same, first check the strength training routine with your doctor.


Flex your muscle

You are spoilt for choice in selecting the right exercise routine to strengthen yourself. Free hand, free weights, workstations, yoga, pilate, swimming, etc. Add to the list, the tonomatic which we will dwell on later. Check and choose your exercise routine if you can with a doctor who specialises in sports medicine. Or an ortho from the sports field. Unfortunately, most gyms/health clubs are today part of the ever-growing sports industry and can push you to employ expensive exercise equipment to cover their costs. Then, there are some so-called trainers. They too may direct you to the same equipment for the above stated reason. Or because of their prior body-building exercise routine. They know no better and so guide you to weight-loaded workstations. When what you really require is a regular cardiovascular routine and selective weight-training.

Please note, bodybuilding is not the same as enhancing your cardiovascular condition and strength training, and your holistic life. Hence, please go in for exercises that enhance these requirements. In short, handle with care and ensure that you enrol into a programme that meets your objectives and suits your conditioning.

Bodybuilding is not the same as enhancing your cardiovascular condition and strength training. So go in for exercises that enhance these requirements.

The National Strength and Conditioning Association, USA, recommends exercises that engage and address multiple muscle joints in each and every major muscle group. Older adults (over 60) are advised to perform these exercises two to three times a week with a 28 to 48 hours gap between sessions — for rest and recovery. Each exercise should be conducted at a weight-lifting capacity of 50 to 85 per cent of your ability to perform the first one (one repetition maximum). Six to 12 reps are required in each set. You could take a break of two to five minutes per set if it is too taxing. If the calculations required drive you crazy, or appear confusing or complicated, go in for exercises that use your own bodyweight like push-ups.

Our Fitness for Life programme has just the right exercise equipment for this task. It uses your bodyweight. The tonomatic exerciser (available at Amazon for around ₹800) was first recommended by my physiotherapist to strengthen the ‘tail bone’. It did that and a whole lot more. This is an all body exerciser that lives up to its name. It stretches and employs the entire body in a series of horizontal exercises. We use it when we are short of exercise time. And the tonomatic is about the first thing we pack when we travel.


When in pain, don’t strain

Soreness is caused by tissue damage. Remedies range from medicine to massage. It is imperative to distinguish between relieving and repairing damaged tissue. A painkiller brings relief in moments. But don’t push your luck. Never exercise immediately after taking a painkiller. You may not feel it right away. But it can cause further complications and injury. Best to lay off. Take it easy. Return to your routine at least 24 hours after you’ve stopped your painkiller, and feel no pain. Along with the painkiller, also work further from within. Consume extra calories and protein. And get sufficient sleep.

The writers are authors of Fitness for Life and Simply Spiritual – You Are Naturally Divine and teachers of the Fitness for Life programme


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