Reduce Injury Risk by Lifting Weights


This is a summary of an article posted on the USMS.org website in August of 2019, with some added information about bone density.  It is a great article that spells out the details of why weight lifting is important as we age.  I am pointing it out here in the OMS Aqua Master and giving a quick summary of the main points for those of you who might have missed it.

The full article can be found here:
https://www.usms.org/fitness-and-training/articles-and-videos/articles/why-masters-swimmers-should-be-lifting-weights

The results of a survey done a few years ago by US Masters Swimming indicated that lifting weights appears to help in reducing injuries.  Around the age of 40, humans start losing lean muscle mass.  The rate of muscle loss accelerates as we get older and can reach greater than 1 percent per year after the age of 50.

Lean muscle mass is important to provide support to our joints.  For example, the hip joint is supported by the gluteus muscle and the knee joint is supported by the quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles.  As we lose muscle mass in any muscles supporting joints, we are losing joint protection which means we are more inclined to injure those joints.

In addition to losing muscle mass as we age, our bodies also lose bone density.  From about age 30, the density of bones begins to diminish, and for women bone density loss accelerates even further during and after menopause.  For men and women, bone density loss can result in bones becoming more fragile and more easily broken, potentially resulting in a condition known as osteoporosis.

Unlike muscles which can be built up larger at virtually any age, our bone density will never be higher than it is at its peak around age 30.  However, numerous studies have shown that weight-bearing exercises such as weight lifting can help avert bone density loss.  By stressing the bones regularly through weight lifting, aging adults can significantly reduce their risk of osteoporosis.  Weight lifting is particularly useful because it tends to target the bones that are the most likely to fracture.

Given these facts, incorporating a weight routine into our workout regimen should be a very high priority for a Masters swimmer, particularly those over the age of 40.  Many people prioritize pool time over all else, but the importance of a regular weight-lifting routine cannot be overstated.

Most trainers recommend a minimum of two days a week of weight lifting.  However, this can be increased up to four days a week to get stronger in preparation for a big event.  It is also recommended that, if doing both swimming and weight lifting on the same day, weight lifting be done first so that you can maintain proper technique while lifting.  If done after swimming, fatigue can make it easier to have poor form which can lead to injury.  Make sure you get guidance on appropriate weight-lifting form and movement, so you practice your weight lifting safely.

More details about starting a new routine and what to use and what exercises to do can be found in the article on the USMS.org website.  Be sure to read it!

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