Updated: Feb 21, 2019
According to a recent report from Public Health England (PHE), too many adults in the UK are failing to exercise enough to maintain strong muscles and bones.
I must admit that this is a major concern of mine, as I fall very much into the "use it, or lose it" school of thought where exercise and a healthy, long life are concerned.
Of course it is easy to draw a (slightly cliched) analogy between the human body and mechanical devices - the body is like a machine and needs regular maintenance, etc. However, as with all cliches, there is a degree of truth in this, though to my mind the analogy is more to do with human muscles, vital organs and bones needing regular stress testing to ensure the body can function at an optimum level and deal with the demands of life in a robust fashion.
In a similar vein, PHE launched a report earlier this year giving advice on how people can have a strong and healthy life by doing the right workouts that so benefit the whole of the body.
According to the PHE report, adults should be undertaking strengthening exercises at least twice a week, with the lifting of weights being one exercise option, whilst playing tennis or dancing also has clear benefits (a recommendation also endorsed by the Centre for Ageing Better).
For myself, I play tennis regularly and love doing so and I am aware that dancing has built a reputation due to its ability to combine cognitive function with physical exertion (you have to think as you sweat).
But lifting weights and engaging in resistance training is, I think, vital in maintaining a strong skeleton and healthy muscle tone, as it requires the person exercising to be strong in the face of physical challenge.
According to the PHE report, recommended activities that offer the most strength-building benefits include:
1) Ball games (such as rugby!).
2) Racket sports (tennis and squash).
4) Nordic walking (walking with poles).
5) Resistance training (with weights, bands, or body weight).
According to other studies, only one in three men and one in four women are doing enough of such exercises to stay healthy and strong.
Experts also advise young people to exercise to build up muscle and bone mass, as this tends to peak by the time adults reach the age of 30, and then to maintain such exercise moving forward.
The "use it, or lose it" principle again.
Or, in the words of Dr Zoe Williams from Public Health England, “Being active isn't just about getting your heart pumping - although this is a good way to begin. Strength and balance activities work in conjunction with cardio activities like brisk walking, and come with a range of health benefits throughout your life - it's never too late to start."
So what should adults aim for as being the basis for a solid strength-building workout?
First of all, look to undertake at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week, such as brisk walking, as well as strength-building exercises on two or more days a week (exercises that work all the major muscle groups).
Or, to put it another way, follow a rounded workout that has a solid cardio’ and weights/resistance component to make measurable progress.
And enjoy your workout, make it a part of your life, support it with a healthy, balanced diet and embrace living the active life. Because, if you do, your brain, cardiovascular system, muscles and skeleton will thank you for it in the years to come.