6 Strength levelI love people watching. My ‘creative expression’ is understanding human movement, and helping others move better so that they can get more from life. This is what I do, every day, and I love it. In fact, this is not a job, but somehow, a part of who I am. As such, I would struggle to be in a public setting, and not look at how others move, at their physical strength, and wonder how I could impact their life through some simple tweaks (yes, if we have shared a physical space, I have probably been checking you out!!).

I recently participated in a great community event that had people walking, running, cycling, pushing prams and riding scooters to raise funds for some great welfare projects. And as I watched those around me, I was conflicted. On one hand, I was so happy to see so many people out being physically active, enjoying the outdoors and each others’ company and support. But on the other hand, I was concerned by the lack of physical strength that I saw. Now, to clarify, I wasn’t expecting to see a whole bunch of body builders or rugby forwards walking around! But what I tend to look for, what catches my attention, is the capacity for humans to keep good posture, good joint alignment when moving. I saw a lot of knees that simply buckled inwards with every step, shoulders and ribcages that collapsed with fatigue, and this during not much more than a 6km walk. Please understand, I’m not being critical – it was great to see all those people out there – but my concern is that all those signs of physical weakness tell me that there is a greater chance that they may develop aches and pains; and that they would simply struggle more than they should doing general activities of daily living… such as walking!

So the issue is not that I saw ‘unfit’ people, but people without enough muscular strength to keep their bones and joints in optimal alignment and function. While as many as 60% of Australians don’t do enough physical activity (to get a health benefit), a 2012 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) report states that a whopping 80% (!!) don’t do any muscle strengthening activities!

So while general aerobic fitness is important, weight training has greater benefits for bone/joint health, general mobility, and those common activities of daily living such as getting into and out of chairs, bathing, dressing, opening jars, and picking up your shopping!

My strong (pardon the pun!) belief is that we should build strength first, and then focus on overall fitness. This way you will have those activities of daily living covered, and then prepare your body for the greater demands (such as ground impact and repetitive movements) that will come with greater fitness activities.

The current Australian Guidelines (2014) recommend an adult “do muscle strengthening activities on at least two days each week”. So why does such a small part of the population (only 20%) adhere to these guidelines? There are observed socio-economic trends, which may be driven by education, but primarily access opportunities to gym equipment. This may also be a reason for the population as whole… it is simpler to go for a walk or jog, but strength based moves typically require a little more knowledge and equipment.

Do yourself a favour: get stronger! Your life will thank you! We are here to help!