If your image of someone doing a squat is a weightlifter sitting on an invisible chair with a loaded barbell on their shoulder, think again. By strengthening your legs, glutes and core, squats help develop and maintain lifelong functional fitness - and you can perform them whether you have gym equipment or not. Here is some information about why everyone should do squats and how to get started.
According to a report from The Washington Post, squats are a compound movement, meaning they engage more than one muscle group - which translates into a lot of bang for your buck. It doesn't take many squats to raise your heart rate and fatigue your muscles.
Not only that, but the strength you develop while squatting will also keep you in shape for virtually any outdoor sport you're itching to get back to. Squats serve as excellent cross-training for activities such as running, cycling, hiking and rowing.
“Me trying to explain the benefits of squatting is like trying to explain the benefits of drinking water,” said Dr. Jordan Tingson of Sports, Orthopedics, and Active Rehabilitation Physical Therapy in Tamuning. “Squatting has really picked up in popularity, especially if you stroll through any Instagram fitness feed.”
More and more physical therapists are also utilizing squats with older people, Tingson said, adding that women often face a higher risk of osteoporosis – a loss in bone mass, making them more susceptible to bone fractures.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of death and injury-related death in Americans ages 65 and older. Falls often result in broken bones, because an estimated 43.9% of older adults have low bone density, and another 10.3% have osteoporosis.
“It’s a full body movement – you use every part of your body, from standing straight to continually staying upright,” Tingson said. “If you work at the at the right intensity, your body begins to adapt to that demand. By adapting to that demand, you start to see the benefits from putting on muscle mass to more bone mass.”
Tingson cautions those who haven’t been working out from jumping out of the starting gates and training like an Instagram pro.
“You don’t have to look an Olympic lifter or the fitness guru on Instagram, do what your body can do,” he said.
For those who may be beginners, he suggests several modifications from using a wall to support and guide to ensure the squat is done properly, or holding on to an object for support.
As long as it’s a “squatting-like pattern, the same things are being trained,” he said.
Of course, it would be nice to squat to the floor, however, Tingson said, not everyone is capable of that, whether it be lingering tightness, balance issues or coordination.
“Squat in a range you’re capable of,” he said, stressing the need for comfortability and balance.
Likening the alignment to a stacking cans, he said, it’s important to focus on keeping those lines from hip to ankle as straight as possible within the range of individual capability.
If you squat heavy enough, you’ll feel it everywhere, he said, but pain is always sign to ease up and assess. If the pain lingers, he stresses the importance of seeing a healthcare professional.
“Work in a range that’s comfortable to you, then slowly bump it up,” he said. “If you wanna go balls-to-the-wall crazy, make sure it’s something you’re ready for.”
The American College of Sports Medicine does have minimum guidelines that one can follow, he said, citing roughly two times a week of 8-12 sets of 8-12 repetitions of exercise to hit major muscle groups.
From legs and calves to shoulders and back, he said, it’s good to try and be consistent. But, the guidelines are just guidelines, he said, stressing the need for physical activity across the board to boost health benefits and decrease certain risk factors.
The bottom line?
“If you haven’t exercised before, doing anything is better than doing nothing.”