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ExerciseApr 6, 2024

Clinical exercise physiologist calls for more opportunities for strength training in work settings

A researcher at the University of Salford is on a mission to get more people over the age of 40 to take up strength training – the benefits of which match aerobic training and can be even more beneficial when combined.

Clinical exercise physiologist Ashley Gluchowski has developed a list of guidelines to promote strength-based activities among health workers, leisure providers and workplaces.

Ashley, a fellow at the University of Salford, which has published the 11-pint list on its website, has been working in partnership with Greater Manchester Moving to raise awareness of the benefits of participating in strength training.

In a research study, Ashley investigated the barriers to strength training and how to support people aged from 40 to 60 years in the city region to move more.

On 4 April, she linked up Greater Manchester Moving to promote the benefits of strength training by asking people to share their stories on social media using the hashtag #StrongEnough.

Ashley said: ‘As our population ages, we tend to become less active, making our current health model no longer sustainable. We are keeping people alive for longer, but those years are being spent in poor health. My heart is in prevention, and one of the biggest returns on investment is strength training.’ She hopes to encourage businesses in Manchester to include strength training opportunities in their workplaces.

Photo Credit: University of Salford
Ask people to share their personal stories and experiences, says Ashley Gluchowski

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Strength training can help to

  • increase muscle, bone, and joint health
  • improve mental health, concentration and energy levels
  • improve sleep, glucose regulation, body composition, endurance
  • lessen the effort required to carry out activities of daily living
  • reduce the risk of health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, chronic kidney and liver disease, sarcopenia and frailty. It can also have a impact on cognitive decline
  • reduce depressive symptoms, giving similar results to antidepressant medication with no side effects 

Ashley noted: ‘When we consider that musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions, mental health, and obesity are drivers of workplace absenteeism, costing the UK economy £150 billion in 2023, we can reduce the risk or treat each of these things effectively with strength training. Just two, 30-minute sessions of strength training per week is likely to reduce your chances of developing chronic disease.’

When we consider that MSK conditions, mental health, and obesity are drivers of workplace absenteeism – costing the UK economy £150 billion in 2023 – we can reduce the risk or treat each of these things effectively with strength training [Ashley Gluchowski]

Claire Marshall, strategic lead for active adults at Greater Manchester Moving, said: ‘We need to work across the city region to ensure everyone has the opportunity to take part in both strength-based and aerobic exercise, so we can all enjoy the numerous physical and mental health benefits they bring.'

She added: ‘We know it is never too late to start, and doing anything is better than nothing. We want to use these new guidelines to support everyone by showing you don’t need loads of specialist equipment – it can be as easy as using your body weight and doing exercises in your living room at home.’

Ashley’s 11 guidelines (a summary)

  1. use images of real people being active and strong in a variety of ways. Focus on diversity of body types, ethnicities, and ages. Avoid using 'stick people' or cartoon icons.
  2. use quotes from participants and highlight their success stories
  3. peers are the preferred source of information and inspiration; ask people to share their stories and experiences
  4. it’s not enough to tell people to do strength training (even when including frequency, muscle groups, or intensity). People need more details to know how to practically participate in strength training. People who don’t know how or who don’t feel confident they know enough, simply won’t start.
  5. people think strength training is only for appearance or performance. Including other benefits may be key to moving more people along to the next stage of behaviour change (from contemplation to preparation or from action to maintenance).
  6. both short-term benefits (such as blood glucose regulation) and long-term risk reduction (such as dementia) are effective and should be used simultaneously.
  7. Some people who self-report as participating in strength training admit they are ‘going through the motions’ or are quite inconsistent in their approach (as a direct result of not seeing any tangible benefits from their initial efforts). These people are further encouraged with information about the importance of progressive overload for continued benefits and lasting results.
  8. messages should be clear and consistent across messengers (to avoid confusion and frustration) but also need to be seen across several channels and settings. Employers and workplaces are believed to play a major role in promoting and encouraging strength-based exercise.
  9. effective messages are quickly and easily linked to more information and opportunities. QR codes should link to a mobile app or dedicated web page.
  10. inclusive messages include information and opportunities for all abilities, from beginner to advanced.
  11. information coming from recognisable, credible sources are more effective (professional exercise bodies, relevant charities and universities). 

Greater Manchester Moving aims to change people’s lives through movement, physical activity and sport. The charity is one of 42 Active Partnerships – a network of bodies working with Sport England to support the local implementation of its Uniting the Movement Strategy.

Author: I A McMillan
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