Because we no longer need to do physically strenuous work to survive (carry water, hand wash clothes, etc.), we have to intentionally work our muscles to strengthen them. We steadily lose muscle as we age. Approximately 3-5% of your muscle mass is lost every 10 years after the age of 30 if you are inactive, and unfortunately a small amount is lost even if you are active. This muscle loss causes your metabolism to slow down–a problem we are all aware of but don’t often have a solution for.
Metabolism is the rate that your body burns (or uses) the energy–fuel–food–calories– that you eat. As you get older and you steadily lose all that muscle, your body becomes so efficient at burning your food/calories that you actually need less and less food to survive as you age. Think of a toddler getting a cup of water off a table. They awkwardly and inefficiently climb on a chair, using all four limbs grab the cup and awkwardly crawl back down. Now, an 8 year old might run to the table to get their drink, leave it and keep playing. However, as an adult we’ve learned the most efficient way to do everything, and we get really good at doing things with as little movement as possible. For instance, as an adult, I either carry my water around with me or chug an entire glass of water at once to avoid needing to go back to the kitchen. Or, if I sit down and forget my drink I’ll ask one of my energetic kids to bring it to me! These natural tendencies to become more and more efficient as we age keep us from using our muscles, leading to muscle loss, causing us to need less food for fuel.
Google, Pinterest, or YouTube search workout videos and you will discover there are so many options of workouts and variations of exercises that it is almost overwhelming, and it is hard to even know where to begin. The truth is, though, all of them work. You can pick a workout you enjoy and stick with it, or choose a different workout every time. It doesn’t matter what exercise program you choose or which specific workout you choose: you will see results if you are doing the exercises properly and you stay consistent. Consistency is the key to any progress towards anything worthwhile. If you want to be a better athlete, artist, musician, or writer you must practice and work consistently. It is no different if you want to strengthen your muscles or lose weight or body fat. In the same way that one week does not make you an expert, one month does not mean you are done and can stop working. Results come slowly and visible results come even slower. Just remember, in the beginning when you’ve been working hard a few weeks and still don’t see results, your body is changing–you just can’t see those changes yet. They come eventually, and sometimes very suddenly you realize you have a little muscle definition. The best part about strength training is you don’t have to do it every day. As a matter of fact, studies show that even just 2 days a week can make a difference if you have been inactive, and just 1 day per week of strength training can bring positive results for older adults.
I would recommend beginning with 2-3 days each week, with at least 1 day of rest between strength workout days. If you’re looking for a simple workout and tips on where to begin, I’ve put together some of the most basic circuit workouts that you can download for free here. Stay consistent, and I promise, you will feel so successful that you persevered and were self-disciplined enough to continue even when the work was hard and results were slow to appear. Good luck!