Strength training is important for everyone, not only to improve muscle strength but to maintain and improve your overall health, regardless of your age. Whether you are 25 years or 65 years, some form of strength training should be included in your routine. Though the strength session will be different for all, according to the age group.
In this article, I would like to talk about the changes in our body that happen once we cross our 30s/40s (and they may not be pleasant ones) and how strength training is important to help us reverse these changes and improve the quality of life!
I have experienced the positive changes that my body has undergone over the last 4-5 years just by incorporating a strength training routine in the form of workouts with weights, using my own body weight and practicing yoga. One can even use resistance bands or other gym equipment.
What Happens As We Age?
The human body changes as we age. Some of the effects are obvious as we cross middle age. Even healthy, normal ageing includes:
- Slower metabolism
- Decreased muscle mass and strength
- Increased body fat
- Reduced bone density
- Increased bone porosity
- Stiff joints
- Slower reflexes and reaction time
- Decreased aerobic capacity
These are normal changes that we may experience as we age. Although, the severity varies from person to person. One of the most important reasons to exercise and specifically include strength training is to slow and minimize these changes.
Benefits of Strength Training
1. Increases Muscle Mass
As you age, you lose muscle mass. It is a condition called Sarcopenia. People who are physically inactive lose between 3 to 5 percent of their muscle mass per decade after the age of 30. It accelerates at around 65. By the age of 70, the average adult has lost 25 percent of muscle mass. This is mostly due to disuse and inactivity. Any kind of exercise can reverse this loss and build muscle mass and strength. Weight lifting, strength training, and resistance training are the best. After six months of twice-weekly strength exercise training, the biochemical, physiological and genetic signature of older muscle is “turned back” nearly 15 to 20 years.
2. Improves Bone Health
Bone fractures and breaks are all too common in older adults because of loss of bone density and osteoporosis. There can be other causes of osteoporosis and it may need to be managed medically. However, there is plenty of evidence that exercise can improve bone density. Osteoporosis can also be prevented and treated through strength training. Like muscles, bones become stronger when they are active. Weight-bearing exercise strengthens bones by making them produce more cells.
3. Improves Functional Ability/Movement
Increasing strength through training is essential for improving overall day to day functions. Older adults can gain more mobility, walk a greater distance and even reduce the need for assistive devices like sticks and walkers with regular strength training.
Building strength also helps with all kinds of other functional movements like walking, sitting on and getting up from a chair/bed, climbing stairs, carrying groceries, etc. This in turn just makes life easier and gives you the confidence to involve yourself in many other activities you always wanted to do.
4. Boosts Metabolism
Strength training is one of the best ways to boost your metabolism (the rate your resting body burns calories throughout the day). When you do strength training, your body demands more energy based on how much energy you’re exerting. That means some calories are burned during the workout and more calories are burned after the workout while your body is recovering to a resting state. Also, Testosterone and DHEA, the hormones that affect strength and energy levels, decrease as you age. But with regular strength training, these levels can be enhanced within 8-12 weeks.
5. Improves Brain Health
Getting older can put you at risk for loneliness and social isolation, depression and other mental health issues. Building strength which increases mobility, function and improves overall health, also boosts your mood and overall quality of life. Resistance training can also slow down the cognitive decline associated with aging. Lifting weights improves memory, attention span and the ability to resolve conflicts.
6. Improves Health Conditions
Strength training reduces blood sugar levels and improves sensitivity to the hormone insulin, which helps blood sugar get inside the cells and thus improves the way the body uses the blood sugar. If strength training is properly applied, it simultaneously engages both the muscular system and the cardiovascular system. When our muscles are stronger, there is less demand placed on the heart. This allows the lungs to process more oxygen with less effort. The heart pumps more blood with fewer beats and the blood supply directed to your muscles is increased.
How Often Should You Do It?
Recommended intervals are 3-5 times per week for 20-30 minutes at a moderate intensity-level or 2-3 times per week for 15-20 minutes at a high-intensity level. Before you begin any workout, check with your doctor especially if there is a medical condition associated. Take professional help as knowing the proper technique will help you prevent injuries. Focus on activities that target larger muscle groups as they will give bigger returns.
We hope this article helps you care for your muscles a little more and helps you improve your physical and psychological well-being as well. If you’re about to begin your strength training routine, #LevelUp with LIVE coaching sessions from our experts on GOQii Play.
Apart from strength training, there are many more ways to live longer. Explore the secrets to longevity in our IndiaFit Report 2020.