Stronger, healthier, younger!
Building your strength is vital for good health and could even help you stay younger for longer, says health writer Karen Evennett
It’s a sobering fact that past the age of 25 you lose one per cent of muscle strength with every year that passes. “The best way to describe it is as if you’re trying to climb a downward escalator,” says physiotherapist Sammy Margo. “Each year you’ve got to keep working harder to stay on top.” Doing resistance exercises to tone up isn’t just about looking better and getting slimmer (although we’ll admit that is an added bonus), it helps you move better, gives you more energy and helps with your balance – some studies even suggest it could help you live longer. “Gaining and maintaining muscle strength is crucial to so many aspects of your overall health and wellbeing,” explains Sammy. “The stronger your muscles, the stronger your bones will be too – and that lowers your risk of osteoporosis. You also protect your joints from arthritis and reduce your risk of a dangerous fall.” We also know that because muscle is “metabolically active”, the more you have, the more calories you burn – even when you’re resting – and that has pay-offs in preventing weight-related conditions such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. “The latest research even shows that stronger muscles lower your risk of dementia,” says Dr Marilyn Glenville, author of Natural Solutions for Dementia and Alzheimer’s (£12.77, Lifestyle Press). “Thirty minutes of
‘The stronger your muscles, the stronger your bones will be too – and that lowers your risk of osteoporosis’
exercise three times a week could help to improve your memory and processing speed in just four weeks – but including strength training in your schedule has more impact than just doing aerobics,” she says. “It’s thought the effects are due to the fact that building muscle could help to increase the volume of your hippocampus (the part of your brain that deals with long-term memories) by two per cent. This matters a lot because this is the part of the brain that shrinks as a symptom of Alzheimer’s, and the two per cent increase is like reversing the equivalent of one or two years’ shrinkage.” The good news is that you can get stronger muscles without going anywhere near dumb-bells. Here’s how…