As you get older, it’s natural to have creaky joints, stiff muscles, and pain. However, neglecting to maintain muscular endurance — the ability of your muscles to perform repeated contractions against resistance for an extended period of time — could spell trouble for your golden years. Fortunately, muscle endurance exercises can help correct poor posture, improve stability, improve the aerobic capacity of your muscles, and maintain your ability to perform daily activities, according to ACE Fitness. That’s why we’re here to help you with five of the best exercises to improve muscle endurance as you age.
Note: Do not confuse muscular endurance (or endurance) with muscular strength. Muscular endurance allows you to do physical activities for longer periods of time, while muscular strength is your ability to lift or move heavy objects. Basically, the tougher your muscles are, the more reps you can do. Research shows that moderate-load muscular endurance strength training is an effective strategy for combating age-associated loss of strength and muscle mass. Additionally, engaging your muscles through regular exercise is key to maintaining their functional capacity as you age. According to the National Institute on Aging, well-functioning muscles can improve your balance and skeletal structure, reducing your risk of falls and injuries.
If you’re worried you’ve missed the mark, we have good news: it’s never too late to improve your muscular endurance. To help you get started, we spoke with Margie Young, CPT, a Life Time Champions ARORA certified personal trainer, who shares his top five exercises for improving muscular endurance and endurance as you age. Read on to find out what they are and how they can improve your quality of life, and then don’t miss the most recommended exercises to increase endurance as you age.
A great move for increasing muscular endurance is the hip hinge, where you shift your weight to your heels and push your hips against a wall while leaning forward at the hips. (You can also perform this exercise with suspension straps.)
“With the hip hinge, you’re not leaning forward; you’re leaning at the hip,” says Young. “Start by standing a few inches in front of (but not touching) a wall. Next, keep your feet parallel and under your hips, your core tight, and simply touch your buttocks against the wall while leaning forward. Next, squeeze your glutes straighten up.”
The hip hinge will increase your range of motion (ROM) and allow you to perform everyday activities with ease. So the next time you bend down to pick up the laundry basket, use the hip hinge shape to save your lower back.
A simple exercise that can be done anytime, anywhere is the bodyweight squat. To perform them, says Young, “Sit back and stand up, remembering to push your heels out. Multiple sets and repetitions of bodyweight squats help maintain muscle balance and improve functional movement.” Perfecting bodyweight squats will come in handy next time you’re squatting to pick up the kids’ toys for the seventh time in a day.
Another great muscle endurance exercise is the plank. This static hold has several variations that strengthen your core, improve your posture, reduce back pain and boost coordination. “Plank holds aren’t just great for the core, they’re great for the whole body, and anyone can do them,” says Young. “Plank variations include going from a wall to a counter, to the bed or couch, and even to the floor. Add intensity by alternating glute-activated leg lift holds during the plank.”
Maintaining control and balance in motion is key to increasing muscular endurance as you age. Step-ups are a great way to help maintain your lower body strength and balance since your body weight continuously shifts from leg to leg as you move.
“Step-ups are a safer alternative to walking lunges that you can do anywhere there’s a safe, elevated surface,” says Young. “To protect your knees from excessive flexion, anchor and push through your heels. Add variations by increasing the height of your step-ups or doing single-leg holds to improve your balance.”
You read that right: good old fashioned breathing can improve your muscular endurance! Young tells us, “Breathing is an exercise that requires muscles, and most of us do it incorrectly. Your diaphragm is a muscle responsible for 75% of breathing. You will naturally create a vacuum effect for the next inhale while activating the abdominal muscles focusing more on exhaling through your body.” Additionally, breathing can improve focus while oxygenating your blood, helping to reduce the stress and inducing a calming effect, which we all need more in our daily lives.
Adam is a health writer, certified holistic nutritionist, and 100% plant-based athlete. Learn more about Adam
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