Slow down aging with resistance training
60 is the new 40, right? Um, no … not exactly. But there is hope.
I don’t remember the precise moment I realized that my future was shorter than my past. But I had to reach for a calculator to convince myself. It wasn’t pleasant. So, what exactly happens to your body when you age, and what can you do about it? A lot, it turns out.
1. Less energy
As we age, we tend to get tired more easily. This may seem obvious, but it can hit you like a ton of bricks. The hormones that affect strength and energy levels (testosterone and DHEA), decrease as you age.
Strength training is one of the best ways to boost your metabolism. According to a 2018 study in the journal of the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology, three months of resistance training can significantly increase free testosterone and DHEA levels.
2. Declining brain function
Let’s face it, your mind isn’t the steel trap it once was. But resistance training can slow the cognitive decline associated with aging.
A University of British Columbia study led by Teresa Liu-Ambrose indicated that lifting weights improved memory and countered the effects of dementia. It was also shown to improve attention span and the ability to resolve conflicts.
3. Fat and wrinkles
When you age you put on more abdominal fat — that’s normal. Strength training can help reduce this belly fat, which can be particularly bad for your heart. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that healthy men who did 20 minutes of daily weight training had less of an age-related increase in abdominal fat, compared with men who spent the same amount of time doing aerobic activities.
As your muscles and bones get weaker (see below), your posture also suffers. But strength training helps you keep your muscle mass longer and preserves the muscle tone required for good posture.
And then there’s that sagging, droopy skin — The dreaded neck wattle. You can lose weight other ways, but strength training can help retain muscle tone and skin elasticity (no more droopy skin).
4. Weak muscles
When you get older you lose muscle mass, a condition called sarcopenia. People who are physically inactive can lose between 3 and 5 percent of their muscle mass per decade after age 30. And this loss begins to accelerate after age 65. Uh-oh. This is a problem that can lead to weakness and contribute to falls and fractures.
There are a few possible causes of sarcopenia:
- Decrease in muscular nerve cells
- Decrease in hormone levels
- Decrease in the body’s ability to synthesize protein
Research has shown that strength training can be helpful for both the prevention and treatment of sarcopenia. A program of progressive resistance training exercises may positively influence the neuromuscular system, hormone concentrations, and protein synthesis rate.
5. Weak bones
As we get older, our skeletons become more susceptible to:
- Arthritis (joint inflammation)
- Osteoarthritis (cartilage breakdown)
- Osteoporosis (brittle bones)
These conditions often lead to chronic pain, decreased mobility, and a higher risk of bone fractures.
Weight lifting offers many benefits to help manage arthritis pain. Exercise keeps joint muscles strong, decreases bone loss and helps control joint swelling and pain.
According to a 2013 study published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, people with mild to moderate hip osteoarthritis may be able to avoid hip surgery if they exercise. The study also revealed that those who exercised reported improved flexibility and ability to perform physical activities compared with those who did not exercise.
Strength training can also help prevent and treat osteoporosis. Like muscles, bones become stronger when they are active. Weight training exercises strengthen bones by inducing them to produce more cells.
Daily exercise and eating well are always beneficial, especially as you age. But strength training can help fight a lot of physical problems associated with getting older. And it’s not just for bodybuilders anymore. A supervised weight training program can be good for everyone. And the sooner you get started, the greater the benefit. It’s never too late.
Thanks for reading.