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Yes, cardio is important, but remember, lifting heavy is itself a cardio workout!
  • Corinne Brown

Strength Train and Live Longer!

I know you hear me preach this in class: challenge yourself to lift heavier! Resistance training is one of my core disciplines because it is essential for building and retaining lean muscle. It keeps you feeling youthful, improves your overall quality of life, and allows you to remain functionally independent as you age. The fact is that lifting alone is linked to a 9-22% lower risk of dying from all causes. 

The Longevity Trinity

The three aspects of fitness I put my faith in are:

  • Strength
  • Balance 
  • Flexibility 

Yes, cardio is important, but remember, lifting heavy is itself a cardio workout!

The goal I have for my students is to push hard but within reason. It’s essential to allow your body to acclimate to heavier weight in increments.

As I always say, workouts are not one size fits all – what’s lifting heavy for a beginner is not the same as lifting heavy for an experienced, trained student. So, you need to be realistic about your capabilities while at the same time pushing to exceed them. 


There are several ways to measure your functional strength. 

  • You should be able to lift yourself off the floor without using your hands. The goal is three times down and up from a fully seated position. And do the movement with fluidity, meaning no hesitation and no momentum movements. (I recommend doing this on a soft floor surface, like a padded carpet.) This movement also requires flexibility and balance, so it hits all three core areas. 
  • Grip strength is also vital and strongly correlated with longevity. Try this: hold two weight plates, one in each hand, in a “farmer’s carry” (both arms at your sides, as if the weight plates were buckets of milk you were carrying). The goal should be 25-50% of your body weight carried for two minutes. As always, build your way up to these goals. The beauty of the farmer’s carry is that it targets your entire body. It strengthens the muscles in your biceps, triceps, forearms, shoulders, upper back, trapezius, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, lower back, obliques, transverse abdominis, and rectus abdominis.
  • Overhead plate carry is a variation of the farmer’s carry I recommend. Grab a weight plate – start with 10-20lbs, and work to increase the weight as you get stronger. Lift it with both hands over your head, and walk holding it for 30-50 feet. This strengthens the back, shoulders, obliques, and scapular stabilizer muscles. It also helps build core balance. 

Other Considerations:

Beyond strength, the other legs of the fitness stool that you should focus on are: 


Balance is critical to improve and maintain as we age, especially because falling is not compatible with longevity. Falls are common and costly, especially among Americans aged 65 and older. But they’re largely preventable and do not have to be an inevitable part of aging. Here’s what to do: 

  • Practice standing on one foot with the opposite foot raised against the supporting knee (this is known as the tree pose in yoga). Try holding this position for 30 seconds. When you get good at that, challenge yourself further by performing the pose with your eyes closed. It’s surprisingly challenging!
  • Another essential balance move is to hold a deep squat for one to three minutes. As you improve, you can enhance the challenge by holding a weight plate with both hands in front of you. 


Last but certainly not least, flexibility is another key to achieving longevity and healthspan.

Here, my recommendations are simple: 

  • Incorporate stretching into your workout routine! The easiest way is by taking a stretch class at FI. I teach an Essential Stretch Express class and a Step, Strength, and Stretch class that both focus considerably on flexibility. 
  • You can also consider yoga and Pilates classes for the same purpose. 

I guarantee you’ll be amazed by how much flexibility improves your ability to function and move without limits and pain. 

The Fourth Dimension: Move!

We spend so much time sitting, working at our desks, hunched over our phones, and watching TV that we often forget the most essential thing: to move! It doesn’t need to be complicated. Walk. Just walk. Walking has become my go-to exercise; I do it daily, and all the better, with my incredible friends. This most human of activities increases bone density, lowers glucose levels, and allows you to raise serotonin levels with sunlight and conversation. And moving is the very essence of longevity. Every 500 daily steps taken are associated with a 7% decreased risk of death from cardiovascular causes, and every 1,000 daily steps taken were associated with a 15% decreased risk of death from all causes. Just walk!

Get Started

In conclusion, when it comes to building strength, start with reasonable weights that challenge you but are not so heavy that they cause you to sacrifice form and potentially injure yourself. Work your way up gradually. Remember that it’s never too late to get started! Weight training is critical to remaining young and maintaining metabolic health, especially as you age. Retaining skeletal muscle mass will prevent sarcopenia, the loss of muscle mass that accelerates as we age, and make your everyday life longer, healthier, and more enjoyable.

Please email me at to share your thoughts or ask questions. 

Have a Wonderful Holiday Season!

Love, Cor 

About the Author

Cor 2022

Corinne Brown

Corinne Brown is a fitness professional with over 40 years of experience. She is the Founder and Owner of Fitness Incentive.

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