The Hidden Benefits to Lifting Weights As You Age
Like momma always said, it’s the inside that counts! Whether you call it strength training, resistance training or weight lifting, the benefits of lifting weights are numerous. Lifting weights isn’t just physical- it has a lot of psychological benefits too.
1. Increases Muscle Mass and Strength- Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass, strength and function related to aging. Physically inactive people can lose as much as 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each decade after age 30. A progressive resistance exercise training program is well known to exert positive effects on both the nervous and muscular systems. This results in profound improvements in muscle mass and muscle strength. Resistance exercise training should be considered a first-line treatment strategy for managing and preventing sarcopenia.
2. Increases Bone Mineral Density- Another way to look at it is as a decreased risk of a bone fracture from a fall, and who doesn’t want that? Bones last longer if you stress them more. Lifting weights is considered the most bone producing (osteogenic) activity. Exercise makes it lay down more bone material to strengthen it.
3. Decreased Risk of Cardiovascular Disease- CVD is a class of diseases that involve the heart or blood vessels. Weight lifting has been shown to be just as good for your heart as running, or any other cardio activity. Some recent studies have come out showing that strength training can benefit the heart more than aerobic activities, and that it improves the good cholesterol (HDL) on average 8%-21%, and decreases the bad cholesterol (LDL) by 13%-23% on average.
4. Decreased Risk of A Fall- Many different risk factors contribute to falls, but muscle weakness and poor balance are most common with falls. Strength training against resistance and dynamic balance retraining improve both strength, stamina and balance and have been shown to decrease the risk of falls. Exercise programmes that are individually tailored and target those at high risk may be the most effective. Strength training can also reduce the fear of falling, allowing more confidence with movement.
5. Lowering the Risk for Cancer- research published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise suggests weight lifting may be particularly beneficial for lowering the risk of colon cancer by 25%.
6. Helps Control Blood Sugar (Diabetes)- Strength training can help promote something called glucose homeostasis, or the balance of insulin and glucagon to help maintain your blood sugar levels.
7. Cognitive Function (Brain)- Numerous studies have looked into strength training and its effect on cognitive function, with positive results. Six months of training twice weekly significantly improved associative memory performance, selective attention/conflict resolution, and regional patterns of functional brain plasticity.
8. Arthritis- Lifting weights offers numerous benefits to help manage arthritis pain. Exercise keeps muscles around affected joints strong, lubricates joints, decreases bone loss and helps control joint swelling and pain. Joint pain, stiffness, weakness, instability or deformity can make some movements and positions used in weight training difficult. You may need to modify the exercises you do or the equipment you use.
9. Functional Independence- The literature indicates that there are many deleterious changes in the musculoskeletal system during the normal process of aging. Investigations into the area of functional independence has shown strength training can mitigate or even reverse a spiraling decline in activities of daily living (ADLs), even among the frail elderly. Functional gains observed include improvements in gait, gait speed, balance, mobility tasks and a decrease in the risk of falling.
10. Motivation and Confidence- The benefits of training include: reduced depressive symptoms, improved levels of anxiety, self-perception of physical well-being, body satisfaction, self-esteem and overall tension and positive mood.
You can think of these benefits like a house with the interior walls filled with important things like plumbing, and electrical wiring. We don’t ever see it, but we know it’s important that they are working properly. Like the human body, if something goes wrong, it can be expensive and have catastrophic effects!
Wondering if you are exercising enough to reap these benefits? Unsure which weight lifting exercises are appropriate for you? Worried you may not be doing your exercises correctly? Or perhaps you have further questions.
Reach out today to talk to an expert: 250-575-0818 or