Cardio is not the Solution to a Strength Problem
Think about all the non-disease/dysfunction issues that we humans can have as we get older. Struggling to get out of chairs; an inability to crouch and stand up again; loss of balance; increased fragility if losing balance makes us fall and break a bone; being unable to get back up, etc etc.
All these things are ‘strength problems’.
Think of strength as just your ability to exert force against the world around you, or to resist/absorb forces that affect you. Part of strength is what we can think of as skill: how well you use your body to produce that force. Most of it, however, is determined by how much muscle you have, which is why the above problems escalate as we get older.
There is a prevailing view that losing muscle and strength is just ‘part of getting old’, and to an extent that’s true. You’ll never be as potentially strong in your sixties as you were when you were twenty (unless you only starting weight training at fifty-five!) but weight training can significantly reduce this decline.
I like to use my mother as an example; she’s in her mid-sixties and was starting to have trouble picking things up from the floor and standing back up, despite already doing plenty of cardio. We had a few long chats before I moved to the States, and as a result of embracing strength training she can now squat low and stand back up with no problem at all. She also hits a Zumba class several times a week!
Moving on to the crux of this post:
Long hours spent on cardio equipment is fine, but it will not solve a strength-related problem. It’s not designed to do that.
I’m sympathetic to the ease of cardio work (treadmills, recumbent bikes etc) compared to the relative complexity of resistance training, which can encompass anything from planks to TRX rows, to seated machines and all the way up to barbell exercises. However, it is not the panacea for aging, and using it as such can expose you to vulnerabilities as time goes by.
Closing thought: your body is an adaptation machine. Give it a reason to adapt and get stronger, and it will! If you’re an ACAC member – which you probably are if you’re reading this – take advantage of the free clinics our training team puts on several times a month. Grab us on the floor and pick our brains about what to do and how to do it. A little knowledge and help goes a very long way.
See you in the gym!