It’s no secret that regular exercise can help promote good health, reduce risk of disease, and even help you live longer.
Many people associate weight training as an activity limited to younger generations. But did you know strength training can be beneficial for all age groups?
While I was visiting my parents recently, an old family friend Dominick (or “Big Dom” as we liked to call him) joined us for dinner.
Dom was struggling with his weight and voiced his health concerns with me.
“Sean my first grandchild was just born. With my weight problems and high blood pressure problems I’m fearful I’ll never get to see him graduate high school.”
Dom had started taking steps to change his life, but something was missing...
He told me had improved his diet, began walking on the treadmill, and even gave up soda. The problem is he still wasn’t getting the results he wanted.
As we continued, I pried further into his workout routine.
“Dom often do you incorporate strength training into your workouts?”
He implied wanted to lose weight and wasn’t looking to adds tremendous amounts of muscle.
See people often get the misperception of how strength training can improve the body. Sure it can make you look better, but it also can do much more.
“Weight training isn’t just beneficial for building muscle, it can help improve overall health.” I explained.
Physically inactive people can lose as much as 5% of their muscle mass every decade after age 30. The ripple effect of muscle loss goes beyond simple aesthetics.
Muscle loss is sometimes referred to as sarcopenia, a disease occurring most commonly in people over 50. Sarcopenia can dramatically decrease life expectancy and cause other health issues such as bone loss.
The problem is as people age, focus tends to drift away from weights in favor of cardiovascular training.
While older generations tend to favor the treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike, a well-balanced strength training program may be able to provide more health benefits than aerobic exercise alone.
There are several types of strength training you can incorporate into your workout routine regardless of age or physical background.
An important aspect of any strength training program is performing exercises you’re most comfortable with. If you aren’t a fan of free weights, resistance bands are a great inexpensive alternative that takes up virtually no space.
Expensive gym memberships are not required for maintaining muscle mass.
Simply keeping a set of free weights or resistance bands around can allow you to perform numerous exercises in the convenience of your own home.
But why should you practice regular weight training?
Weight training can provide a number of benefits for people young and old alike.
People of all ages can benefit from regular strength training. While younger people are more inclined to build muscle for cosmetic reasons, muscle mass is actually more important as we age.
Older people who regularly train with weights can build muscle, increase strength, and most importantly prevent bone density loss.
Strength training in older adults can also prevent age related health issues such as:
Strength training may not only slow down the aging process, it may even be able to reverse it.
A study was performed on 26 volunteers with a mean age of 68 years who underwent resistance training for six months. Upon completion of the study, nearly one-third of genes associated with aging showed signs of gene expression reversal. Mitochondrial impairment also reversed with resistance training. This study clearly showed resistance training can improve longevity and reduce aging at the molecular level.
Strength training can also help alleviate secondary health concerns by improving sleep and reducing depression.
As you can see the health benefits of resistance training go far beyond being able to look good in the mirror.
In individuals over the age of 60, it’s recommended that they should train 3 or 4 times weekly for the best results.
If you have been out of the gym for a significant period of time it may be in your best interest to start out with one or two days per week before undergoing a more intense workout program.
Seeking advice from a qualified personal trainer can make sure you’re using proper form and may help avoid potential injuries.
Prior to our discussion Dom was strictly doing long sessions of cardio at the gym with no resistance training. While he successfully lost a few pounds, it wasn’t until he started incorporating strength training 3 days per week that he really saw results.
After six months of regular weight training, Dom lost 20 pounds of fat and gained 6 pounds of muscle.
We caught up recently to discuss his newfound progress.
“Sean I can’t thank you enough for the advice you gave me last time we met. I may be 65 years old but I feel 35 again thanks to you!”
As you can see this is a real world example of how strength training in conjunction with a healthy diet can help you look better, feel better, and achieve the life you’ve always wanted.
It’s never too late to begin the path to a better you. Start out slow and begin with low intensity strength training a couple of days per week. As you become more comfortable, you can gradually increase frequency as you best see fit.
Whether you’re 21 or 101, a well-structured strength training program can result in better health both physically and mentally.
If you want to get started, but aren’t sure how feel free to reach out to me with questions.
Let’s lift to live a better, stronger, longer life today.