How strong do I need to be?

Performance

This is a “million Dollar” question.

Certainly, many health professionals such as strength and personal trainers, physiotherapists, doctors need to take into consideration in their planning of their client’s individual needs. For example – to what level an athlete should be trained to reach their full physical potential or maybe whether to decide between a walk or jogging to a patient who is in the process of rehabilitation. The range of personal requirements can vary whether it be a post-surgery client or maybe a client looking to be more active with the objective of weight loss.

Firstly, we need to understand what to be strong means – taking into consideration who we are and what we do.  For example, a sedentary office worker certainly does not need the same level as strength as a weightlifter.

Strength

Force is one of the fundamental concepts of classical mechanics. Related to the three laws of Newton, it is a greatness that has the capacity to overcome the inertia of a body, modifying the speed, either in its magnitude or in its direction. Newton’s second law says that A=F/M (acceleration=force/mass) and simplifying this, means that for a larger mass we need to produce more force to have acceleration. The force we apply to move a 5kg object is different from the force we apply to move a 10kg object and, if we compare this example to the human body, we can say that a 90kg body needs to produce more force to move compared to a 70kg body. It is interesting to think that, excluding athletes and highly trained people, a high weight or BMI (body mass index) is associated with a sedentary lifestyle and bad eating habits.  However, as described above, the heavier we are, the more strength we need to move. If a sedentary lifestyle and being overweight are inherent to increased fat mass and decreased lean mass (muscle) then what supports a heavy body with such low muscle mass? Our inner structures such as bones, cartilage, joint capsules, ligaments and fascia have a limited capacity to support a heavy body. When the limit is exceeded due to stress imposed by body weight in daily activities alongside diminished contractile structure (muscle and tendon) actions, a structural injury may occur.

Who we are?

How strong we are is significantly connected with our job and our personal goals. Referring to the examples of the weightlifter and the office worker, it is easy to determine the difference by the type and level of exercise regimes.  Whilst a weightlifter needs to lift a load of almost 3x their body weight over their head to succeed in their profession, an office worker (according to WHO) needs 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week to be considered active. It is also important to determine what the underlying goal is. For the weightlifter, it is necessary to succeed in their sport and, for an office worker, it is necessary to prevent or reduce the effects caused by a sedentary lifestyle.

It is important that we have strength to help prevent the onset of pains. We need to live a physically active life in order to complete our daily tasks. We don’t need to be as strong as a weightlifter, but we still need to be strong.

In addition, regular physical activity has numerous health benefits:

  • Lower rates of all causes of mortality, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, colon and breast cancer and depression;
  • Less risk of a hip or vertebral fracture;
  • Exhibits a higher level of cardio-respiratory and muscular fitness;
  • More likely to achieve weight maintenance, have a healthier body mass and composition.

However, what happens if the individual who works 8 hours a day on the computer whilst also taking 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week decides to run a half marathon? Is it enough to do 150 minutes of exercise per week? Probably not. This person will have to train more, increase the exercise and undertake a more specialised training regime in order to meet their goal.

To quote Adam Meakins:  “you can’t go wrong, getting strong”.

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