As we get older our bodies change and we start to lose muscle partly due to reduced activity levels, but also because of our physiology. Reduced muscle mass results in a lower base metabolic rate which in turn results in a reduced ability to burn fat passively. What this means is that we tend to accumulate more fat in our bodies which we historically refer to as “middle age spread”.
The best way to counter this is to undertake some form of strength training. We need to use our muscles or we will lose them.
Now, ‘strength training’ does not necessarily mean going to the gym and lifting very heavy weights above your head (although that can be fun in a controlled environment). Body weight exercises are just as effective at halting the decline, and for some people is a safer and more achievable option.
Any exercise that places load stress on your muscles is a form of strength training. Just doing press ups, squats and some form of body weight pulling exercise such as chin ups can have hugely beneficial results.
The advantage of resistance type training over cardio is the ‘afterburn’. This is the extra work your body has to do to recover sufficiently from the activity. Moderate to high intensity strength training will continue to burn energy for a number of hours after your training - and burning energy equals burning calories.
The benefits of cardio training are many and varied and when combined with some resistance training can give you great results. Of course this depends on what your goals are as well as your age, gender, level of mobility and a host of other contributing factors.
Aside from the physical benefits, cardio training has been known to assist with increased learning ability in young and old as well as assisting in moderating mood, food intake, and energy. Just 30 minutes of steady cardio at a minimum of 60% of your theoretical maximum increases brain function and enhances energy levels. Cardio exercise can also help fluctuating cortisol levels and is even a great natural way to reduce stress.
This is just a brief outline of the benefits of both cardio and strength training, but the reality is that finding something that you enjoy doing is the most important factor to start with. If you can incorporate a bit of both cardio and strength training into your day then you will get a much better result overall. If running isn’t your thing then try something else like dancing or skipping. If you find lifting weights boring then try going to the local playground and climb over the equipment like we used to as kids.
Whatever you do, do something. You will feel so much better for it.