As a personal trainer in Schaumburg, I am often asking my clients what they did for exercise or physical activity since I last saw them.
“I played a round of golf over the weekend.”
“I went for a 45-minute walk yesterday.”
“I chased my grandkid all over the house.”
These activities can certainly be challenging, but what is the one thing they all lack? Specificity.
Regular physical activity is immensely important for your health and wellbeing. However, if you confuse general physical activity for specific exercise, you may be missing out on some important benefits of exercise.
Have you ever noticed that your walking motion changes by the time you finish mowing your lawn? That’s in part because the goal of the activity was something external–mowing the lawn–instead of internal, such as challenging your glutes. What began as walking upright with default to trying to doing those things as efficiently as possible.
The issue with general physical activity is your body is only going to adapt to the specificity of the challenges. If you challenge your body in a very general manner, the best you can expect is very general adaptation.
Is there value in going for a walk? Absolutely. Can playing 18 holes of golf every week be of benefit to you? For sure. But this is all relative to a baseline of not doing anything. So if the alternative is to sit all day, there is tremendous value in being generally active. But, if you are wanting to create specific changes within your body, the challenges have to be more specific.
One of the easiest ways to create specific challenges is to engage in regular resistance training. Even just three days a week for 30 minutes at a time has been shown to be enough to improve strength in people over the age of 60(1). Additionally, maintaining your current strength can be done through three sets of an exercise performed one day each week.(6)
Wood et al. (2001) found that combining both resistance training (RT) and cardiovascular training (CVT) together in a program for older adults created similar gains in strength and cardiovascular fitness as doing solely CVT or RT.(1) However, it was also found that doing strictly RT created the greatest gains in strength and comparable gains in cardiovascular fitness as doing CVT or a combination of both.(1)
Why is this important? There is a growing body of literature showing that when older adults engage in regular RT, their overall physical function improves. Walking speed, balance, strength, activities of daily living, and osteoarthritis symptoms have all been shown to improve with regular RT.(2, 3, 4) Not to mention, other physiologic effects and health improvements have been measured, such as changes in blood pressure, lower body fat percentages, and improved blood glucose control.(5)
How does this translate into the real world? Continue to walk, golf, and play with your grandkids on a regular basis. There is actually a substantial amount of evidence that this will help to ward off insulin resistance leading to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.(7) But also be sure to include at least 30 minutes resistance training three days each week. If you are unsure how to do this, we would love to connect with you at Muscle Activation Schaumburg so we can help you exercise for life.
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- Wood R, Reyes R, Welsch M, Favaloro-Sabatier J, Sabatier M, Lee C, Johnson L, Hooper P. Concurrent cardiovascular and resistance training in older adults. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 33(10): 1751-1758, 2001.
- Latham N, Bennett D, Stretton C, Anderson C. Systematic review of progressive resistance strength training in older adults. The Journals of Gerontology. 59(1): M48-M61, 2004.
- Orr R, de Vos N, Singh N, Ross D, Stavrinos T, Fiatarone-Singh M. Power training improves balance in healthy older adults. The Journals of Gerontology. 61(1): 78-85, 2006.
- Ettinger W, Burns R, Messier S, Applegate W, Rejeski J, Morgan T, Shumaker S, Berry M, O’Toole M, Monu J, Craven T. A randomized trial comparing aerobic exercise and resistance exercise with a health education program in older adults with knee osteoarthritis. The Journal of the American Medical Association. 277(1): 25-31, 1997.
- Castaneda C, Layne J, Munoz-Orians L, Godon P, Walsmith J, Foldavari M, Roubenoff R, Tucker K, Nelson M. A randomized control trial of resistance exercise training to improve glycemic control in older adults with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 25(12): 2335-2341, 2002.
- Trappe S, Williamson D, Godard M. Maintenance of whole muscle strength and size following resistance training in older men. The Journals of Gerontology. 57(4): B138-B143, 2002.
- Mayer-Davis E, D’Agostino R, Karter A, Haffner S, Rewers M, Saad M, Bergman R. Intensity and amount of physical activity in relation to insulin resistance. The Journal of the American Medical Association. 274(9): 669-674, 1998.