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Strength training: How it can help as you age

Strength training is important at any age, but for those over the age of 30, the need to maintain and build lean muscle tissue becomes more and more important.

I’m for all forms of exercise. Running, walking, Zumba, yoga — basically anything that gets you moving gets a thumbs up. But there still needs to be a strong focus on lifting weights to build muscle.

After 30, adults who don’t strength train can lose up to an average of half a pound of muscle mass per year. This leads to early frailty and increased fat mass. Even active people who don’t strength train will lose significant amounts of muscle mass and suffer a decrease in bone density. This combination puts you at risk for fractures due to falls.

The good news is that, if you start to strength train, you may be able to lose an average of four pounds of fat and gain three pounds of lean muscle in just four weeks. The results are expected to continue for the first 12 weeks of strength training.

Building lean muscle mass is not the only benefit of strength training for aging populations. The toll that aging takes on a body extends down to the cellular level. But the damage accrued by cells in older muscles is especially severe because they don’t regenerate easily and they become weaker as their mitochondria, which produce energy, diminish in vigor and number.

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A recent study suggests that certain types of workouts may undo some of what the years can do to our mitochondria. The benefits of performing weight training are very robust and essential. Let’s take a deeper look into a few other major benefits:

Muscle equals more metabolism 

Lifting weights helps you lose fat and build muscle. The effect that lifting weights has on your body composition is profound. The more muscle a person has, the more calories they will burn at rest. So basically, muscles speed up your metabolism, resulting in fat loss.

Bone health

Many studies have shown that lifting weights regularly can increase bone density. Other forms of exercise just don’t cut it when you’re trying to keep your bones strong and healthy. The only true way to do this is to lift heavy stuff and put it back down. Be proactive now, so you don’t have problems later.

Strong makes everything easier

I’m a big believer that we can keep our independence as long as we take care of our bodies and can do things ourselves. It would feel great if you didn’t need someone to do everything for you. Creating independence for yourself is an amazing feeling. It’s great when you accomplish a task that you thought you never could do. Lift some weights, get stronger, and get it done on your own.

Confidence

In the past, older folks were left in the corner with the pink dumbbells or in water aerobics; they were self-conscious and felt out of place in the weight room. In today’s gym atmosphere, I’ve found that most of the aging population can keep up very well with the younger folks. They work harder, push themselves to the limits, and at times have better form.

When an older person realizes outer strength, they can tap into their inner strength, and that begins to radiate. Confidence is an attractive quality and that gym confidence starts to carry over into every other aspect of life. A strong person in the weight room is a confident person outside the gym.

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Justin Grinnell, BS, CSCS, is the owner of State of Fitness in East Lansing. He is also a certified nutrition coach. Reach him at 517.708.8828.

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