7 Benefits Of Strength Training For Older Adults

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Written by Penny Cooper

In life, we reach a certain age where we feel that we have no energy anymore to do anything.

Life becomes more sedentary and muscle loss happens naturally as we age.

Fortunately, muscle loss is a completely reversible process – one that is achievable through strength training, something that should be a part of getting fit after 50.

Firstly, we need to understand what strength training is.

What Is Strength Training

Simply put we can understand strength training as undertaking different forms of exercise or physical activity by making your muscle work against some weight and force using weight machines, resistance bands, or your body weight. And doing it two or three times a week.

Now let’s discuss the 7 reasons why older adults should still strength train:

1 Strength Training Increases Your Metabolism

Usually, when people say they have low metabolism, they mean that their body is not able to burn more calories.

However, we should note that by building more muscle, you will also burn more calories during workouts.

That’s because with more strength you will be able to work harder and longer. A study conducted by the American College Of Rheumatology examined the signs you would normally look for when a body ages.

That included the metabolism of proteins, the hormonal mediators that would determine body shape and life-cycle-related hormones.

And also cytokine mediators which will determine the wellness of the immune system.

This was carried out 12 weeks before progressively intense muscle-resistant strength training on 16 healthy men and women, 8 young and 8 more elderly.

The conclusion was strength training increased whole-body protein breakdown, which correlates with growth hormone, glucagon, and TNFα production. (TNF promotes insulin resistance associated with type 2 diabetes – think obesity)

2 Strength Training Improves Your Heart Health

A physically active lifestyle is an important factor and a strength training routine helps you strengthen your heart muscle, control your weight and protect your arteries against damage from high cholesterol, high blood sugar and high blood pressure.

Strength training with free weights like hand weights, dumbbells or barbells, weight machines, with resistance bands or through body-resistance exercises, such as push-ups, squats and chin-ups help reduce fat and create leaner muscle mass.

A combination of aerobic exercise and resistance work help raise HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.

heart graphic with runner

Image Source: Pixabay

3 Strength Training Strengthens Your Bone

As one progresses in age and becomes less mobile, the bone mass decreases.

This is a serious issue as low bone mass leads to osteoporosis, fractures, and falls.

However, you can benefit from strength training’s bone-strengthening effects at any age. Research by the National Library of Medicine concluded that strength training using resistance was more beneficial than normal aerobic training.

The results showed better bone mass and structure in people regularly doing strength training. It was not only safe but doable for older adults.

Strength training puts temporary stress on the bone, sending a signal to the bone cells to rebuild stronger bones.

4 Strength Training Improves Cognitive Functions

Strength training has many neuroprotective effects, including improved blood flow, reduced inflammation, and an increase in the markers associated with short and long-term memory.

It is suggested that strength training (lifting weights) can help protect brain areas especially vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease.

In the long term, strength training helps in slowing the degeneration in specific subregions of the hippocampus.

The hippocampus is a complex region in the brain and is crucial in the area of learning and memory.

strength training 6

(Image Source: Pixabay)

5 Strength Training Decreases Your Injury Risks

One of the main benefits of strength training that is often overlooked is a decrease in injury risk.

As stated in the earlier points, strength training for older adults improves an individual’s physical and mental state.

This means you have an equilibrium that results in improved muscle reflex, ligament and tendon strength, range of motion, and flexibility.

This builds strength around major joints such as the knees, hips and ankles for added protection from injury.

6 Strength Training Boosts Your Self Esteem

Another benefit of strength training for older adults is you look leaner as your excess fat gets burnt and your muscles and overall body look in shape. This has a psychological effect.

Your confidence returns and your sense of improvement motivates you further without a thought of giving up. Strength training promotes the release of mood-boosting endorphins, which can play a role in lifting the mood of any person.

7 Strength Training Reduces Health Complications

Several studies and personal anecdotes show how strength training at a later stage of life has had a positive impact on the overall health of older adults.

Like diabetes or chronic kidney diseases which limit the movement of our body but it can be improved upon with a proper training routine.

A regular strength training program can reduce the level of sugar in the blood levels by using the glucose whilst training but also after, when the muscles need repair. No additional insulin is required.

Graphic of a person weight lifting

(Image Source: Pixabay)

We can clearly see how strength training is required as you progress in age. There is no age limit to staying fit and healthy through strength training.

Adults across all age groups, with due precautions and proper guidance, can benefit in several aspects of their lives through strength training. Remember consistency is key when it comes to health.

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Penny is a Personal Trainer currently training as a wellness coach. She gained a BA in English at Edinburgh University. Redundancy from retail management hastened a move to helping people get fit and writing about all things fitness in middle age.

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