Strength training is intimidating for beginners, but the benefits are worth the effort. A lower body mass index, reduced risk of injury during exercise, and more are some perks of strength training. Plus, muscle mass drops by around 4% each decade after the age of 30, and strength training is the best way to curb this loss and help you stay strong and functional.
In fact, many fitness trainers believe that strength training is more important than aerobic exercise to slow the aging process and preserve functionality. That’s important since you need strength to do the things you enjoy doing and to do your daily activities in a safer manner.
Strength matters for health, fitness, and well-being.
Not convinced? Let’s look at some ways strength training slows the aging process and why working your body against resistance should be part of a “fight aging” lifestyle.
Strength Training Burns Calories but Also Modestly Boosts Metabolism
Along with the loss of muscle mass and strength, you lose muscle mass with age. With less metabolically active muscle mass, you burn fewer calories when you’re active and even at rest.
The difference is modest but significant. When you work with weights, you become stronger, improve your body composition, and build more metabolically active muscle. In turn, that modestly boosts your resting metabolic rate. Who wouldn’t want a metabolic boost from having more muscle?
Strength Training Lowers the Risk of Osteoporosis
Strength training doesn’t just build muscle; it helps preserve bone mass too. That’s important, especially for women, since they’re at greater risk of developing osteoporosis relative to men.
Women often shun weight training, but they need it as much as men. When you work your muscles against resistance, especially if you lift heavy, it stimulates bone-producing cells called osteoblasts and signals them to lay down new tissue.
Adding new bone is an uphill battle after a certain age. Humans build most of the bone they will have during adulthood before the age of 20. However, there is evidence that you can modestly increase bone density during mid and late adulthood through strength training.
Building Strength Lowers the Risk of Injury
The risk of injury goes up as you age due to muscle and strength loss as well as changes in balance. By keeping your muscles and bones strong, strength training lowers the risk of falls and other injuries that can lead to fractures and lost time from work and other activities. Compound strength training exercises, like squats, deadlifts, and other exercises that work more than one muscle group at the same time, also strengthens your core muscles, the ones that help stabilize your body, generate power and protect against injury and back pain.
Strength Training Improves Balance
The ability to balance also diminishes with age and this increases the risk of falls. Strength training can improve your sense of balance by strengthening the muscles, including the core muscles, that help your body stay stable. You can further improve your balance skills by including exercises that target one side of your body at a time. Good examples are one-legged squats and one-legged deadlifts. Lunges are another effective exercise for improving balance skills. Include some of these exercises in your strength-training routine.
Building Strength Lowers the Risk of Age-Related Health Problems
Body composition changes with age. The flat abdominal muscles and small waistline you had during youth is replaced with excess tummy fat. Plus, fat that builds up around the waist and tummy because of aging is more serious from a health standpoint. Deep, belly fat called visceral fat increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Regular strength training, combined with a healthy diet, improves body composition by increasing muscle and reducing body fat, including visceral fat.
Need proof that strength training burns belly fat? One Spanish study found that a combination of strength training and a healthy diet cut visceral belly fat by almost 10%. That’s worth picking up a pair of weights! You can also get benefits by using your own body as resistance by doing bodyweight exercises like squats, wall squats, triceps dips, and push-ups. No equipment needed!
The Bottom Line
Now you know why strength training is good anti-aging medicine. You don’t have to join a gym to the benefits either. Start by doing bodyweight exercises at home. You can always add resistance bands for greater intensity once bodyweight exercises become less challenging. With resistance bands, you can do a variety of strength training movements in a small space and they’re lightweight and portable. Research shows they’re as effective as weights for building strength and muscle size. So, what are you waiting for?
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