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gender and strength
Mar 8, 2002

I am a 54 year old man with a sit down type of job. I just recently joined a gym. A 31 year old female co-worker of mine is also a member. She has been a member of the gym for a number of years. We saw each other at the gym recently and decided to lift weights together. Much to my embarrassment she was able to lift significantly more than me. I was greatly surprised to learn how little I could lift, especially taking into account repetitions. Has my age affected me that much? What percent of women are stronger than men? We are about equal in size. What would be the best way to increase my strength the fastest?

Response from Ms. Fields-Gardner

It makes sense that you would have to start somewhere! Strength is both a gender and training issue. You have the gender, but she has the training!

In studies of older adults, muscle response to exercise was quite good which suggests that it is more a case of inactivity than age. While there can be some changes in hormone levels (specifically testosterone), exercise is the primary method to improve the function and strength of muscle.

If you suspect that testosterone level is low (not an uncommon finding in chronic HIV infection), talk with your doctor. But, even with replacement, exercise is key to achieving your goal of being fit and making the most of your gender advantage in strength. Weight lifting should be accompanied by aerobic exercise in your exercise plan to make sure that you can endure the strength exercise and function better all-around.

There is a lot of advice out there on exercise... you may want to check out the American College of Sports Medicine if you want specific advice; www.hivfitness.org for exercise plans; and www.TCEConsult.org for two downloadable handouts on the role of exercise in HIV.

It can take a while to work up to the fitness level you prefer, but hang in there! It is worth it!


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