IMPORTANCE OF STRENGTH TRAINING AS WE AGE
The words “strength training” can sometimes be viewed with negative connotations. We think of a power lifter in a stringer one rep maxing with 700lbs on their back. Yes, this is one type of strength training that’s popular with a very specific group, and that type of training requires a different level of dedication and skill. That is not what I’m referring to, though. The type of strength training that I am talking about is training with the goal of increasing or preserving muscle mass and bone density and using resistance to do so.
There are several reasons as to why strength training is beneficial to us as we get older and I’m going to highlight some of the most important.
Muscle Mass: It’s a widely known fact that we lose muscle mass as we age. A loss in muscle mass leads to decreased strength, decreased mobility, decreased power, and a lower metabolic rate. I’m not here to say that you can avoid all muscle loss. Unfortunately, muscle loss is inevitable to some degree as we age. However, we can drastically improve how our bodies respond to this. Using progressive resistance training, we can continue to build up muscle tissue well into our later years. Obviously, it’s going to be easier if we start training from a young age, but this doesn’t mean it’s not beneficial to start now even if you’re 70 years old. Whether you’re 18 or 65, the concept and process is basically the same, with some obvious situational differences.
With regular progressive resistance training and the right program, you can continue to maintain and even build muscle strength, size, and power.
Bone Density: The effect of strength training and bone density is significant. As we age our bone density naturally decreases. This happens to men and women but studies show that women are more susceptible to osteoporosis and other bone density issues than men. That being said, the idea of preserving and building bone density should still be taken seriously by both men and women. Studies show that both aerobic and resistance training provide positive results for bone
density. However, strength training may provide more site specific results. For example, an aerobic exercise such as walking or jogging, provides bodyweight resistance and has the potential to be positive for bone density, (likely on under trained individuals). Performing a strength based exercise such as a weighted squat, provides much more stimulus to your body and has more potential to build bone density. A weighted squat will stress the bones around the hips, which is important as we age considering that the hip is a common fracture spot.
Aesthetics: We can’t discuss positive effects of strength training without mentioning aesthetics, (or how we look). It’s no mystery that a well designed exercise program combined with a healthy diet will yield positive results with how we look. Whether it’s weight loss, increased muscle mass, or increased performance, I am a firm believer that a primary focus should be on strength. Aesthetics are no exception. Even if your goal is to lose 50lbs, you (or your trainer) should still have their eye on strength. I’ve seen several situations in the gym where strength training isn’t focused on, and the results have been mediocre. Strength training needs to be a foundation in the gym. A well rounded strength training regimen will promote increased mobility, increased muscle power and output, muscle strength gains, as well as muscle size and definition if calories are adequate. Another positive of increased muscle mass, is an increased metabolism. That means our bodies require more fuel due to the increased energy demands of the added muscle tissue. In a nutshell our bodies burn more calories.
These are just a few of many important reasons we should all be incorporating strength training into our fitness plans. No matter what age you are, regular strength training can be a game changer when it comes to reaching your goal. We can’t stop getting older, but we can definitely put in the work to make sure we enjoy the aging process even more. So start now! We’re not getting any younger.