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Add Some Strength to Your Exercise Routine

Strength and resistance training is an important part of an overall exercise program but is often skipped. Strength training consists of working with strength machines, free weights, resistance bands or using your own body weight, and can make you stronger and improve your overall health. A strength training workout can make daily activities like lifting laundry baskets or yardwork easier and safer.

Key Health Benefits to Strength Training

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, challenging your muscles to gain health benefits depends on the amount of weight lifted, the number of repetitions and the speed you’re lifting. Adding resistance training to an aerobic program can offer more benefits from childhood to old age.

Benefits of strength training include:

  • Increased muscle mass: Muscle mass naturally decreases with age, but strength training can help reverse the trend.
  • Stronger bones: Strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk of fractures.
  • Joint flexibility: Strength training helps joints stay flexible and can reduce the symptoms of arthritis.
  • Weight control: As you gain muscle, your body begins to burn calories more easily, helping to control your weight.
  • Manage chronic conditions: Strength training can reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions, such as arthritis, back pain, obesity, heart disease, depression and diabetes.
  • Balance: Strengthening exercises can increase flexibility and balance as people age, reducing the risk of falls and injuries.
  • Sharpen your thinking skills: Some research suggests that regular strength training and aerobic exercise may help improve thinking and learning skills for older adults.

Exercise Plan

Don’t worry -- we’re not talking about professional bodybuilding. Strength exercises should target the major muscle groups, including the chest, back, legs, shoulders, arms and trunk/core.

Aim to exercise each muscle group at least two times per week, with a minimum of two days of rest between workouts. One set of eight to 12 repetitions, working the muscles to the point of fatigue, is usually sufficient for each muscle group.

The American College of Sports Medicine also recommends:

  • Lifting and lowering weights in a controlled manner (2 seconds each up and down)
  • Increasing weight lifted over time so it feels like an eight out of 10 difficulty (0 being no effort and 10 being the most difficult)

Common strength machines include the leg press, leg extension, leg curl, chest press, row, shoulder press, abdominal flexion and back extension. You can also find ways to do simple muscle strengthening exercises around the house, such as squats or sit-to-stands from a sturdy chair; pushups against a wall, the kitchen counter or the floor; and lunges or single leg step-ups on stairs.

Warming Up and Cooling Down

Before beginning your strength training session, consider warming up with brisk walking or another aerobic activity for five or 10 minutes. Cold muscles are more prone to injury than warm muscles are.

Choose the time and type of activity that works for you. You could walk for five to 10 minutes or try different stretches.

Need some ideas? Wellspring members can schedule a complimentary orientation with one of our Health Fitness Specialists, who can assist with developing a personalized strength training program. If you are looking for more one-on-one guidance or are not a member of Wellspring, Wellspring’s personal trainers can offer expertise and help keep you accountable in reaching your goals. Learn more at