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  • Writer's pictureSteve Feller

Benefits of Yoga and Strength Training

As I have aged, I have worked hard at trying to remain healthy through different forms of exercise over time. I have always been more driven by strength training. Of course, men want to have firmer muscles, don’t we? Mostly my exercise has been strength training and walking/rucking. This has done well for my muscle development and tone. But over time I have felt my age interfering with my flexibility. I found that as simple an action as putting my socks on, sitting cross legged on the floor, and just my general balance has not been as good as it used to be. I started to do some online yoga and could really see the benefits, so this encouraged me to join a local Yoga class. I have very much enjoyed adding this into my routine. Today I want to talk about the benefits of strength training along with the benefits of Yoga.

elderly lifting barbells
Barbell workout

Many aging adults find a loss of energy and strength as the years go on. Without continued stress on our muscles we all will see a decline in muscle mass and strength. As we encounter this decrease in strength and energy, we find it more difficult to balance, walk longer distances, climb stairs or most any activity we are used to. Another factor for diabetics, is that muscle mass helps us process the glucose in our bodies, helping us maintain our blood glucose levels. Maintaining muscle mass is not only healthy but helps us feel better about how we look, otherwise our skin begins to hang loosely on our body, so the more muscles the tighter the skin will appear. When we regularly exercise, we build that muscle tone, strengthen bone, improve stability, and possibly help our heart and circulation.

One of the best ways to keep ourselves fit and strong is to do strength training. Others may call this weightlifting, but don’t let that scare you, we all must start somewhere. Depending on your fitness level, you may just start using things around your house as weights. As you build strength you may want to invest in some weights, I’ve had the luxury to change one of my kid’s old rooms into a small workout room. A set of dumbbells can be a great beginner set to start working those muscle. No matter how old you are you can begin at your level and build as you keep doing it. Even light weightlifting can help you keep from going backwards by otherwise losing muscle mass and aid in the aging process. There are thousands of strength training program on the internet and through your local gym. I will advise to be careful with the major gym chains, they like to show you how out of shape you are and could injure you on the first visit. This happened to me many years ago, I injured my shoulder and struggled getting into the groove. Please test your own limits and don’t do something that limits your ability to improve your health.

Mn doing yoga

Another factor I want to hit on is our flexibility and how Yoga combined with strength training can really benefit our health. Participating in a yoga class comes with many benefits by impacting how you feel, how well you can move around, and your overall flexibility. Yoga can increase our mobility, increase our stability, improve sleep and overall mental wellbeing. I am not going to say that yoga is a miracle, our tendons naturally stiffen as we age. As our tendons lose fluid they start to stiffen, drinking plenty of water is also important, but yoga poses help get the fluid to the tendons. Over time as we stretch our muscle and tendons they will improve. I have a real issue with my feet and hips, I will never be as flexible as the instructor, but I have seen some improvement over time. In fact, I found in attending a live yoga class that I can discuss alternative poses or supports with the instructor when certain movements do not work for my body. Everybody is different. For example, I have learned the knees should be below the hips when sitting cross legged on the floor and the instructor suggested that I sit on a bolster or thick folded blanket to allow my hips to rotate forward and open a bit more. Many of the poses strengthen our ability to balance, which is crucial in maintaining our mobility as we age. Falling and getting injured is a major issue in the elderly and any strengthening and yoga can help.

Aging can be a very stressful time in life and maintaining our bodies can help in dealing with the stress. Having a purpose, a daily routine, and a sense that we are not just declining, will help our mental wellbeing. Yoga really helps with light exercise, mediation, and good breathing all in a one-hour class. There are many options for whatever your ability is. For people with limited ability, start with chair yoga, restorative yoga or you just do what you can do in a class. I can’t do every pose the instructor does but I continually push myself to stretch and try. One of the main steps you must remember is staying within your own ability and don’t overdo and end up injuring yourself. Take it slow and keep it consistent, building upon your improvement each week will help you the best over time.

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