By Michelle Carbery, Corporate Wellness Specialist, Independent Health

According to the World Health Organization, musculoskeletal conditions affect more than 1.7 billion people worldwide. These range from acute events such as fractures, sprains and strains, to chronic conditions like arthritis, osteoporosis, gout and low back pain, which is one of the leading causes of disability. These conditions are not only associated with pain, but also can limit dexterity, mobility and overall daily function.

The good news is that you can help prevent or alleviate these conditions through strength training. In order to combat the effects of muscle loss as we age, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) recommends at least two 30-minute strength training sessions per week as part of your regular exercise program.

Perks of pumping up

The health benefits of strength training are so powerful that they can improve your chances of living a longer, more independent life. It offsets the natural decline in muscle mass that starts after age 30 and speeds up after age 60, while also helping to increase bone density, which can prevent osteoporosis. In addition to your muscles and bones, this type of training can also positively impact your:

  • Mind. Strength training lifts your mood, studies show. Anxiety, anger and confusion may fade. Your brain may change in ways that improve problem-solving, decision-making and critical thinking.
  • Body Mechanics. Strength training will improve your mobility, balance, coordination and posture, while also lowering your risk of falling.

No expensive equipment needed

Strength training doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. No weights at home? No problem – you can use weighted household items like soup cans, peanut butter jars, milk jugs and laundry detergent bottles. Resistance bands are also affordable and don’t require much space. There are also plenty of strength activities where you can just use your body weight, such as squats, bicep curls, planks and push-ups.

You can also use everyday activities to build muscle, including:

  • Heavy gardening (using full sized shovels, wheelbarrows, moving stones, etc.)
  • Taking the stairs 2 by 2
  • Perform calf raises while brushing your teeth and squats waiting for coffee to brew
  • Use full grocery bags for a set of bicep curls
  • Wash your car – Get up on your toes to reach the top and squat down to get the tires

In addition, Independent Health’s Corporate Wellness Team has produced a series of instructional work out at home videos that you may find helpful.