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Sheryl Kraft

Sheryl Kraft, a freelance writer and breast cancer survivor, was born in Long Beach, New York. She currently lives in Connecticut with her husband Alan and dog Chloe, where her nest is empty of her two sons Jonathan. Sheryl writes articles and essays on breast cancer and contributes to a variety of publications and websites where she writes on general health and wellness issues. She earned her MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College in 2005.

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Why We All Need to Strength Train

Nutrition & Movement

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Having celebrated a big birthday recently has made me more sentimental about aging than normal. But with sentimentality comes complaints. Granted, they're not in a "woe-is-me" kind of way, but with a bit more humor and irony attached to them.

Humor? My feeling is that if we don't laugh about creaky joints, gray hair and diminishing eyesight, hearing and skin tone, then all that bitching becomes whiny. And who wants to listen to a whiner, anyway—especially an aging whiner?

Irony? To be deliberately contrary sure helps make things funny, don't you think?

Anyhow, what I'm getting at is this so-called aging can't be avoided, unless you don't want to be around anymore. So we might as well do the best we can with it.

And that includes staying strong. Strength training is just as important a part of your fitness routine as is doing cardiovascular work. But sadly, so many women ignore it because they don't have time. Or they're afraid of developing big muscles (that's a fallacy, by the way). Or they're too intimidated to even try.

The American Council on Exercise says that unless you regularly engage in activities to strengthen your muscles, you'll lose about a half a pound of muscle a year in your 30s and 40s. Once you turn 50, they say, that rate can double.

I know I can't force you to strength train. You don't really have to do it, unless:

  • You want to lose more muscle mass than you're already losing with age.
  • You don't want to replace the lean muscle you lose, but instead prefer to increase the percentage of fat in your body.
  • You don't want to increase bone density and reduce your risk of osteoporosis.
  • You don't want to control your weight, since muscle helps burns fat more efficiently.
  • You don't want to boost your stamina, improve your balance and maintain your independence as you age.
  • You don't want to manage chronic conditions like back pain, arthritis, heart disease and diabetes.
  • You want to rely on the kindness of strangers to open heavy doors and lift your suitcase.

You don't even have to go to a gym—you can do exercises at home.

Do I have your attention yet? If you're starting to come over to my side, I'll give you a bit more info:

  • You only need two to three sessions each week to target the muscles in your legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms.
  • Twenty minutes is enough to get a good strength training workout.
  • Results are pretty quick; you'll notice a change in just weeks.

I say no excuses not to do it! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says research shows that strengthening exercises are both safe and effective, no matter what your age, even if you're not in perfect health. "People with health concerns—including heart disease or arthritis—often benefit the most," they claim.

Are you sold yet? A good way to learn more and get inspired is with a copy of Strength Training Exercises for Women, by fitness expert Joan Pagano, who writes health and fitness books tailored to women. This book includes and demonstrates more than 200 exercises and will guide you through everything you need to know to stay fit and lean.

Joan says, "Adding strength training to your exercise regimen gives you a flatter belly, shapelier arms and firmer thighs, so you'll look great in a little black dress and skinny jeans."

Sounds pretty good to me! (Not to whine, but have you ever noticed what actually happens to your thighs as you get older?)

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