Did you know that muscles start weakening around the age of 30? And the average older adult starts to lose muscle (about 3% each year) after age 60? Don’t worry — resistance training will help.
When the words “exercise” and “aging” are used in the same sentence, they’re often combined with other words (or warnings): Take it easy. Don’t overdo it. You don’t want to hurt yourself.
Well, we have a word for that: phooey! (Or poppycock, malarkey, baloney!)
That’s right! Pick up those out-of-date mantras like a medicine ball and throw them out the window. The word on the street (backed by the medical community) is actually two words: resistance training.
What is Resistance Training?
Resistance training (also called strength training) are exercises that cause muscles to work against an external force, resisting movement.
These strength-building exercises can accommodate any fitness level — from someone who has been sedentary up until now to the active baby boomer who wants to keep at it. How is that you ask? Because resistance is beneficial whether the resistance is from specialized gym equipment, low-weight dumbbells or cuffs, bands, or simple body weight.
Successful strength training happens by using correct form combined with repetition, not by trying to out power-lift the competition at the gym.
Why Resistance Training?
According to Harvard Medical School’s HEALTHbeat newsletter, resistance training is important for adults 50 and older because it’s “critical to preserving the ability to perform the most ordinary activities of daily living — and to maintaining an active and independent lifestyle.”
Although some activity is better than no activity, focusing on cardio or aerobic-type exercise alone isn’t enough to maintain a healthy level of fitness into the golden years. Harvard Medical School recommends complementing cardio with strength training routines. Their experts agree that “The more muscle you have and the stronger your muscles are, the more benefits you’ll get…” (Special Health Report, “Strength and Power Training for Older Adults”)
The Benefits of Resistance Training
The result of resistance training is stronger muscles, but that’s not all. It goes deeper. Strong muscles keep the body more stable, resulting in better balance and reducing fall risks. Resistance training can strengthen back muscles, preventing or reducing pain in the lower back. And building muscle improves joint mobility, alleviating pain due to arthritis. It also helps with weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight.
The physical benefits are only the start. Research studies suggest a plethora of “internal” payoffs from strength training:
- Stronger muscles create stronger bones which can greatly reduce the onset of osteoporosis.
- Rigorous strength training sessions have been shown to control blood sugar levels, showing direct benefits for those suffering from diabetes (both type 1 and type 2).
- It may seem counterintuitive but strenuous strength training workouts reduce the amount of work the heart does. Strong muscles more efficiently absorb nutrients and oxygen from the blood, decreasing the workload on the heart.
So, what’s the word of the day? Resistance.
Because there is one warning phrase that still does apply: “Move it or lose it.”