We’ve heard the message to just get moving, that any activity is better than none. But somehow the message to strengthen our muscles has got lost.
As a nation, we’re a bit reluctant to get out the weights, with fewer than 19 per cent of Australian adults doing the recommended twice weekly strength-based exercise. But opting out of strength-based work could be shortening our lives, says Associate Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis from the School of Public Health and the Charles Perkins Centre at The University of Sydney. He conducted the largest study to date that compared the mortality outcomes of different types of exercise.
Published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the study recruited just over 80,000 adults living in England and Scotland, who were followed up for an average of nine years. The study found that those people who did strength-based exercise had a 23 per cent reduction in the risk of premature death by any means, and a 31 per cent reduction in cancer-related death. Great for gym lovers, but what if you’re not a gym junkie?
The good news from this study was that exercises using your own body weight, without specific equipment, were just as effective as gym-based training. “Many people are intimidated by gyms, the costs, or the culture they promote,” says Professor Stamatakis. “So it’s great to know that anyone can do classic exercises like triceps dips, sit-ups, push-ups or lunges in their own home or local park, and potentially reap the same health benefits.”
A home-based strength workout
Here are four bodyweight exercises to get you started at home:
Stand with your feet parallel or turned out 15 degrees. Slowly start to crouch by bending the hips and knees until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. Make sure your heels do not rise off the floor. Press through the heels to return.
Lie face down with your forearms on the floor and hands clasped. Extend your legs behind your body and rise up on your toes. Keeping your back straight, tighten your core and hold the position for at least
3. Wall Sit
Slowly slide your back down a wall until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Make sure your knees are directly above your ankles and keep your back straight. Go for 30 seconds per set.
4. Triceps Dip
Sit down on a bench or chair with your hands shoulder-width apart. Slide your butt off the front of the bench with your legs extended out in front of you. Straighten your arms, keeping a little bend in your elbows. Slowly bend your elbows to lower your body toward the floor until your elbows are at about a 90-degree angle. Once you reach the bottom of the movement, press down into the bench to straighten your elbows, returning to the starting position.