Preserving Muscle as We Age: Is the Fountain of Youth a Barbell?
Staying strong as we age has a variety of benefits, yet over the years, there have been a lot of mixed messages concerning lifting weights, especially for women. Those misconceptions have led many women to steer clear of the weight room and head straight for the treadmill. But what if weights were the key to looking and feeling younger as we age?
We are living longer than ever and until fairly recently, there wasn’t much evidence that physical fitness was a factor in how we age. But over the years, more and more research has been done on the connection between aging well and fitness levels and the results are very clear.
Although both cardio and weight-bearing exercises are important for health, it’s no secret that muscle tone naturally declines with age, making us frail, weak and more vulnerable to slips and falls that can turn serious very fast.
In order to fight it, we have to continue to build muscle and gain strength, especially as we age. According to the study, Exercise as an Intervention for Frailty, researchers found that with increasing age, there is also a decrease in physical activity that is directly related to declining aerobic capacity, muscle strength, balance and slowed motor skills.
The good news is that by adding physical exercise, including weight training, back into our lives, we can turn things around. You may not realize it but after the age of thirty, we lose about 3 to 5 percent of our muscle mass every decade which contributes to a decline in the bodies functionality.
We all want to continue to live active and productive lives as long as possible. In order to do that, we have to be smart about how we take care of ourselves. If you are still on the fence about how beneficial weightlifting is for aging adults, read on.
Benefits of Weight-Bearing Exercise
According to Professor Maria Fiatarone Singh, a geriatrician from the University of Sydney, muscle strength is important for bone health, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, heart health, mobility, flexibility, and balance, especially as we get older.
“We’re currently looking to see what the exact mechanisms are, but there is evidence that both improvements in cognitive function and depressive symptoms in older adults are linked to the amount of strength gains or intensity of the strength training.” She said.
Researcher have found that lifting weights can actually turn back the clock on aging. Of course, you want to lift wisely and increase weight as strength increases in order to get the most benefits from it.
“There are studies on men in their seventies who have been lifting for 15 to 20 years and their muscle looked identical to that of 20-year-old men in terms of size and strength,” Professor Singh added.
But the benefits aren’t just for men and more research is being done to prove it. Women who lift benefit as well and health professionals now have begun to include weight training as part of their wellness plans for all of their patients.
In a 2016 study in the Journal of American Geriatrics, researchers found that when men and women ages fifty-five to eighty-six with mild impairment in cognitive health lifted weights twice a week for six months, they improved their scores significantly on cognitive tests, showing that weights can improve more than bone health. The brain actually responds favorability to weight training as well, offering more than just physical benefits.
Staying young, healthy and strong as we age is so important, and lifestyle factors play a more important role than most of us considered. So, what are you waiting for? Go pick up those weights!
Health & Wellness Writer Bio
Maria Pease is a freelance health & wellness content writer based in Southport, North Carolina. She has written about health & wellness for more than twenty-five years and has partnered with a variety of companies doing the most amazing work. She loves being able to write about health topics that can change lives for the better.