Joining the resistance

You’ve got to the stage where you know you want to do something to improve your health and fitness, you’ve got some trainers, shorts/leggings, t-shirts all the gear for a spot of jogging while out and about. But weights? Really? Not for you? Bit of a drag? Heavy? Painful? Ya, me too.

If you’re a woman you’re probably thinking, “I don’t need to carry around all that muscle and look bulky.” If you’re a man (and not already flexing in any available mirror) you’re possibly of the opinion that a bit of cardio will be the thing to keep the pounds off. Maybe a few pressups. Ah but no, people….

Depending on your physical make up, loss of muscle mass can begin as young as in your 30s, by the time you’re into your 50s it can be up to 1.2 percent a year, according to the textbooks. “Most people in their 70s have only 60-80 percent of the muscle mass they had in their 30s,” says Anita Bean in her book “The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition”. Seventy is a long way off for most of us, but really, who wants to be that soldier? Only 60 percent of your muscle mass? We’re truly entering the “Use it or lose it” years when we pass 39.

If you’re looking back at your 30s with fond memories of parties and getting away with heroic drinking and weekends on the sofa scoffing pizza, you might be getting a wee nagging feeling that now it’s time to get moving. Hence the trainers. Something, however small, is better than nothing, but consistency is the key.

Everyone knows cardio will sort us out, keep us healthy. We don’t need to join the grunting muscleheads in the gym, sweating and gurning while they deadlift the weight of a Fiat 500. But studies show that muscle burns more calories than other body tissues and increases bone density. And as we know, exercise in general increases resistance to all sorts of diseases, including cancer and heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

So without swelling the coffers of a certain billionnaire home shopping magnate buy buying shiny, expensive equipment where to start? We know about the venerable pressup, great for the shoulders, triceps and core. How about some squats? Stand feet apart and bend the knees until you reach something like a sitting position on an invisible chair. If you want to get funky you can do some bear crawls. Think of a pressup position but with your knees bent. A few backwards and forwards and side to side moves and you’re taxing your arms, legs and core. Reverse the position (ie sitting on the ground with your hands behind you and powering up to form a sort of table) and you’ve got a bunch more moves.

Back to the legs and we’ve got lunges (oh we’ve all seen Joe Wicks (C) whipping them out) but how about a split squat? That’s just taking up a long lunge position and then dropping the back knee as low as possible. The front quad will sing like an opera diva gunning for the high C. Heel raises and walking about barefoot on your tip toes and you’re working your calves.

This isn’t to say that buying some fairly heavy guage exercise bands and looking up some moves on Youtube won’t be a great, and relatively cheap, thing to do for yourself. With just a little consistency (think 15 minutes three times a week) you can build muscle, or, just as importantly, arrest some of that muscle loss (sarcopenia) and get on with your life without that nagging feeling in the back of your mind.

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