I’m happy to present a guest post today from Penny Cooper of Midlife Hacks on the benefits of strength training for older adults. I’ve written before about how difficult I find it to love strength training so it’s nice to be motivated by remembering just why we all need to be incorporating strength training into our workout routines.
This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
My running days are behind me, unfortunately. The wonderful euphoria of speeding up towards the end of a 10 mile run and feeling the endorphins whooshing through the body is just a memory.
But hey, ho, you have to adapt and so nowadays the only whooshing is the sound of the exercise bike I use, a more appropriate, low impact activity that can still deliver the cardiovascular effect.
It’s no surprise that cardio exercise is good for everyone but especially those of us moving past 50. It is widely regarded as being beneficial for curbing heart and respiratory disease and even forms of cancer as well as delivering overall well-being and good health.
Fewer people over 50, however, entertain the idea of lifting weights on a regular basis. “Lifting weights” sounds so much better than “weight lifting” which conjures up a male-dominated macho world with big mirrors.
When lifting weights, all you’re doing is providing a method of resistance to targeted muscle groups and doing that regularly provides many benefits to midlifers.
Knowing how to start exercising can be a challenge but an exercise regime of physical activity that incorporates both cardio and strength workouts can easily begin at home.
Strength Training Helps with Weight Management
Most of us put on a bit of weight as we age and most of us don’t want it because it’s nearly always all fat. Our needs for caloric intake diminishes as we get older. We are all guilty of leading more of a sedentary life as we age. We are unable to zip around as we did in our 20s.
And if that doesn’t do it the subsequent years of hormonal changes following menopause will.
But that doesn’t mean we necessarily eat less.
Additionally, the metabolic rate slows down as we age partly due to the reduction of lean muscle mass. A slower metabolic rate means you burn calories less efficiently and any excess is converted to fat.
The more lean muscle mass you have the more calories are burned off.
Strength training or resistance training is a great way to increase the body’s energy requirements. It also lessens body fat mass and improves the metabolically active muscle tissue in older people.
Strength Training Helps with Our Bone Health
The serious loss of bone tissue is medically termed osteoporosis and yes, as you may have guessed, it affects middle-aged women the most.
Peak bone mass is at age 30. Normally after 50, 1-3% is lost per year. After 60 it rises to 3%, although for women it is often more.
The body is unable to keep up with the production of bone tissue cells and calcium and other vitamins so the bones become fragile.
The first symptoms are nearly always a fracture after some seemingly innocuous activity.
I was surprised to discover that bone is a living tissue that needs exercise to gain strength, just like the muscle.
Strength workouts help the integrity of not only your muscles, but also bones, maintaining them and encouraging new tissue cell growth.
Have you ever seen someone a bit doddery before their time with a hunch or conversely a spritely older woman totally in control and confident in her movement?
A strength training program that activates all the moving parts can help the body in motion promoting good coordination and balance improving posture.
Mental Benefits from Strength Training
There appear to be fewer studies done on the mental health benefits of strength training on older adults than there is of maintaining a regime of cardio exercise.
However, there is enough evidence to show that working out with weights on a regular basis improves mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.
Resistance training may also reduce or even prevent cognitive decline in midlife and beyond.
Less tired, more stamina and increased confidence through higher self-esteem are all symptoms that medical trials have revealed.
One specific study compared pain relief from strength training over cardiovascular activity and the strength training won out.
Start with Bodyweight Exercises
Static machines aren’t necessarily an ideal form of resistance training as only the main muscle group is being worked upon.
There are 10 major muscle groups that you’ll see many a young, normally male, gym goer working on but there about 600 muscles in total in the body. Most are subsidiary but hold more importance as you get older.
A compound movement unsupported by sitting is a more effective way of working not just the main muscle group but all the anterior muscles.
Katy’s Note: You can find a description of some good beginner body weight exercises in this post.
What Else Strength Training has Given Us
So apart from losing weight, being stronger, not falling over and breaking a bone and being happier, strength training can also help us sleep better, look more toned, feel more confident and enter our later years able, independent and healthy.
Let’s get started…