Strength Training Exercise is the Key to Active Aging
You are never too old, overweight or out of shape to begin strength training, and the earlier you start the longer you benefit. What ages us are physical limitations that affect our quality of life, and much of what we consider the aging process – the loss of strength, stamina, bone density, balance and flexibility – is actually due to inactivity.
Strength training makes you stronger, more stable, more active and energetic. It allows you to be more self-sufficient and independent as you age. And most encouraging of all, muscle mass and strength can be regained no matter what your age and fitness level. In fact, you can literally rejuvenate your cells and “get younger” with strength training.
Strength training can reduce your risk of developing diseases that we associate with aging: osteoporosis, heart disease and adult-onset diabetes. It can help alleviate symptoms of both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, depression and hypertension. A well-designed exercise program that includes weight training will impact your weight, health, fitness and well-being for decades to come.
Exercise is the key lifestyle factor in aging well:
Experts in the field of aging and gerontology have determined that while genes can play an important role in health in the early years, your behaviors and lifestyle account for a full 70% of how well you age in the adult years. They’ve also found that exercise, and specifically strength training, is the key lifestyle factor in active aging. In other words, in terms of preserving vitality,
exercise is more significant than nutrition, stress management, sleep, etc. (although of course these are all important, too).
How strength training keeps you young:
In the middle years (ages 35-50)
•Burns calories: As your metabolism naturally slows, strength training builds lean body mass to increase your resting metabolic rate and keep you lean.
•Preserves bone density by stimulating bone growth.
•Improves posture by strengthening the core and spinal muscles.
Menopausal years (50 plus)
•Minimizes belly fat: Hormonal changes cause fat to migrate to the mid-section, but weight training can help.
•Revives energy levels by restoring fast twitch muscle fibers which give us speed and power.
•Offsets the rapid bone loss that occurs immediately after menopause.
Post menopausal years (65-plus)
•Creates stability in the large muscles of the legs
•Improves balance and walking ability
•Prevents falls and fractures
•Maintains healthy joints
Strength Training Guidelines:
•Do a minimum of 2 full-body weight training sessions per week on non-consecutive days (the muscles need a day of rest to repair and recover). No muscle should be worked more than three times in one week.
•For a full-body session, include 8-10 separate exercises that work the major muscle groups: hips and thighs; back; chest; shoulders; arms; and core body (abdominals and spinal muscles).
•Perform one set of 8-12 repetitions per exercise to build strength and maintain it. More sets may produce more dramatic results, as could adding a third workout per week.
•Begin with a weight that you can lift in good form. The last few reps should be somewhat difficult.
•As you gain strength, add more sets or gradually increase the amount of weight.