Regular physical activity promotes general good health, reduces the risk of developing many diseases, and helps you live a longer and healthier life. For many of us, "exercise" means walking, jogging, treadmill work, or other activities that get the heart pumping.
But often overlooked is the value of strength-building exercises. Once you reach your 50s and beyond, strength (or resistance) training is critical to preserving the ability to perform the most ordinary activities of daily living — and to maintaining an active and independent lifestyle.
The average 30-year-old will lose about a quarter of his or her muscle strength by age 70 and half of it by age 90. "Just doing aerobic exercise is not adequate," says Dr. Robert Schreiber, physician-in-chief at Hebrew SeniorLife and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. "Unless you are doing strength training, you will become weaker and less functional."
A beginner's strength-building workout takes as little as 20 minutes, and you won't need to grunt, strain, or sweat like a cartoon bodybuilder, either. The key is developing a well-rounded program, performing the exercises with good form, and being consistent. You will experience noticeable gains in strength within four to eight weeks.