As we age, our bodies undergo various changes. However, we can minimize those changes by remaining physically active. Studies show that muscle mass decreases approximately 3 to 8 percent in people after the age of 30 and that rate decreases even more after age 60. Although sarcopenia, muscle loss due to aging, is a natural result of growing older, there are a variety of ways to prevent and slow muscle loss.
Beyond addressing the factors that may contribute to decreased muscle loss—a sedentary lifestyle, an unbalanced diet, inflammation in the body, and chronic stress—strength training is one of the best ways to build and maintain muscle mass. Think of it as use it or lose it.
At The Seneca, our Vitality Fitness Center provides state-of-the-art equipment to help you maximize each and every workout. Our weight machines help you build strength, and personal training sessions are available for tackling customized goals, such as improving range of motion and providing guidance for resistance training.
As we age, we often experience a slower metabolism, increased body fat, reduced bone density, and decreased muscle mass and strength. Although all are healthy and normal responses to aging, they can also all be mitigated with strength training.
Beneficial at any age, strength training is especially important later in life, as it can minimize such changes in the body. The U.S. Health and Human Services recommends older adults incorporate muscle-strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups on two or more days a week. If that’s not possible, consider doing what you can. Here are just some of the benefits of incorporating strength training into your workout regimen:
Increase muscle mass
According to researchers at Tufts University, it’s estimated that people between the ages of 60 and 70 have lost 12 percent of their muscle mass, while those over the age of 80 lose about 30 percent. Lifting weights and adding strength training exercises can decrease the rate of decline and build muscle mass. This has the added benefit of helping you boost your metabolism. The more muscle mass you have, the faster your body is able to burn calories, which also aids in weight loss.
Strength training is essential for improving strength. It also combats frailty and weakness, which can lead to falls and other debilitating consequences.
Prevent bone fractures
Osteoporosis and a loss of bone density can often lead to breaks and fractures. Strength training can reduce such risks by improving bone density. Evidence shows that weight-bearing aerobic exercise and strength training put stress on the bones, which adapt by building more bone and becoming denser.
While it may seem counterintuitive, as strength training has long been thought to make muscles tighter and reduce flexibility, new research shows that it can actually enhance flexibility. Providing a wider range of motion, strength training helps to boost mobility, balance, and agility. It may also reduce the need for walkers and canes and improve access to everyday activities, such as bathing and climbing stairs.
Reduce symptoms of chronic conditions
While numerous diseases and chronic conditions are associated with inactivity, many of their symptoms can be improved upon by strength training. It is especially helpful for arthritis, back pain, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and obesity. Weight lifting helps ease arthritis pain by strengthening the joints and protecting them from further damage. Strength training also improves insulin health and lowers high blood sugar levels for those with diabetes. Simple moves can actually help the muscles to absorb more glucose. It has also been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke by 40 to 70 percent.
Boost Brain Health
Mental health and well-being are other advantages that come with lifting weights and incorporating resistance training into your routine. The instant gratification that comes with strength training also boosts self-esteem. And as with most types of physical activity, it also works to improve brain function and is even thought to slow cognitive decline related to Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.
Enhance overall quality of life
While the benefits of strength training go far beyond the physical, those physical results certainly add up, helping you to feel stronger, more confident and independent, and better able to participate in the everyday activities you enjoy.