The Facts About Strength Training and Managing Chronic & Age Related Conditions

If you have a chronic or age related conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, depression, asthma, osteoporosis or back or joint, strength training can have positive benefits. However, it is always important to talk with your doctor before starting any exercise routine as they may have advice on what exercises are safe and any precautions you may need to take while exercising.

How can strength training improve my condition?

If you have a chronic or age related condition, regular exercise accompanied with strength training can help you manage symptoms and improve your health.

Being physically active can help you improve your heart health and endurance. Strength training can improve muscle strength and make it easier to accomplish daily activities, slow disease-related declines in muscle strength, and provide stability to joints. Mobility or flexibility exercises may help you to achieve a greater range of motion within your joints so they can function better.

For example:

  • Heart disease: Regular exercise can help improve your heart health. Recent studies have shown that interval training is often tolerated well in people with heart disease and can produce significant benefits.
  • Diabetes: Regular exercise can help insulin more effectively lower your blood sugar level. Physical activity also can help you control your weight and boost your energy. 2
  • Asthma: Often, exercise can help control the frequency and severity of asthma attacks.
  • Back Pain: Regular low-impact activities can increase strength and endurance in your back and improve muscle function. Abdominal and back muscle exercises (core-strengthening exercises) have been shown to reduce symptoms by strengthening the muscles around your spine. 3
  • Arthritis: Exercise can reduce pain, help maintain muscle strength in affected joints and reduce joint stiffness. 4
  • Depression: Regular exercise has been proven to be beneficial for symptoms of depression, resulting in a happier mood. 5
  • Osteoporosis: Incorporating resistance training, such as lifting weights has been proven to build bone density and reduces the risk of falls by improving stability. 6

What exercises are safe?

Your doctor might recommend specific exercises to reduce pain or build strength. Depending on your condition, you might also need to avoid certain exercise altogether or during flare-ups. In some cases, you may need to consult a physical or occupational therapist before starting to exercise.

If you have low back pain, for example, your best bet is to start with low-impact activities such as walking or swimming. Strength exercises are more specific but could consist of back extensions or abdominal work.

If you have diabetes, for example, you can start with a basic body-weight strength training routine that includes chair squats, or farmer walks.

If you have osteoporosis, for example, the exercises that will be best for you all depend on if one area of the body is more affected than another. A hip issue is different than a back issue. Just remember resistance is the key to success — weighted exercises are always going to be better than resistance bands.

How often, how much and at what intensity can I safely exercise?

It should always be understood that before starting an exercise routine, it is important to consult your doctor about what is best for you. If your doctor clears you to start exercising here are a couple things to keep in mind.

  • How often: Beginners, of good health, can generally tolerate more work than more advanced trainees. It is important to be active in some way every day. Walking can be done daily, while strength training should be kept to 2-3 workouts a week.
  • How much: If you haven’t been active for a while, start slowly and build up gradually. Your body is the best barometer, rest when you are tired and workout when you’ve recovered. The more you engage in exercising the better you will feel.
  • What about intensity: Start moderate, don’t overdo it!

Do I need to take special steps before getting started?

Depending on your condition, your doctor might recommend certain precautions before exercising.

If you have diabetes, for example, keep in might that physical activity lowers blood sugar. Check your blood sugar level before any activity. If you take insulin or diabetes medications that lower blood sugar, you might need to eat a snack before exercising to help prevent low blood sugar.

If you have arthritis, be sure to never skip a warm-up before you exercise. The heat the body generates from warming up can relax your joints and muscles and relieve any pain you might have before you begin.

What else do I need to know?

Starting a regular exercise routine isn’t as tough as it may seem.

To help you get started, consider seeking a professional, like the ones at Stay Strong | Strength & Conditioning.