If you’re looking to stave off aging and embrace life to the fullest, one of the best gifts you can give your body is a good old-fashioned, healthy strength training regimen. There are many proven ways this form of exercise is beneficial to your health, and we’re here to share strength training habits that slow aging, according to science. Read on to learn more, and below, don’t miss the 6 best exercises for strong, toned arms in 2022, says Trainer.
Incorporating strength training into your routine will add so much to your overall well-being. Not only will you maintain muscle mass, but you’ll also improve your mobility, keep your weight under control, and add more years of good health to your life. By performing strength training two to three days each week, you will also maintain bone density and reduce the chance of developing osteoporosis. Building muscle can help reduce depression, improve sleep and reduce the risk of disease.
And the best part of strength training? You don’t need to lift 300 pounds in order to reap the surprising benefits. Now let’s dive deeper into the strength training habits that slow aging, according to science.
Related: The foolproof ways to lead an ultra-healthy lifestyle, says science
As you age, you begin to lose muscle mass and strength. Impaired mobility is associated with chronic disease, falls, fractures and even early death. If you don’t step up your fitness game, your performance can start to decline more and more each year. You can put yourself at risk of developing sarcopenia, which usually occurs around age 65 to 70. This chronic condition results in fatigue, weakness, low energy, and impaired walking and stair climbing.
It is very concerning that your mobility is adversely affected, however research shows that 30% of adults aged 70 and over have difficulty walking, climbing stairs and rising from a sitting position and it is wise to be proactive. Eric Shiroma, Sc.D., NIA scientist explains, “As we age, there are inevitable functional and biological limitations that can limit exercise endurance, maximal strength, and fitness,” adding, “Some of these limitations can be slowed through an active lifestyle that includes strength training.”
Okay, now that you know the many negatives that come from inactivity, let’s discuss the many beneficial strength training habits that slow aging. It’s not too late to slow down your time clock, say “no” to indolence, and set yourself up for a much more active and better quality of life.
According to the National Institute on Aging, there are many ways to strength train, including using free weights or machines, resistance bands or medicine balls, or doing weight-bearing movements like squats, push-ups or yoga. Resistance training requires your muscles to contract and lift something against the pull of gravity. The more you train, the more muscle you will build.
Related: What Science Says About Exercise Habits That Slow Aging
NIA-supported scientist Roger A. Fielding, Ph.D., associate director of the USDA Jean Mayer Human Food Research Center on Aging at Tufts University outside Boston, has researched older individuals and the benefits of exercise. He and his colleagues have found that the ultimate combination for older adults is resistance training and walking (via the National Institute on Aging).
Fielding and his team reached this conclusion by observing session studies conducted at Tufts University, gyms and local senior centers. The ultimate goal of each session is for participants to find the right weights to work with for their personal weight—not to become an impressive weightlifter or achieve an overly muscular physique. In addition, Fielding’s sessions inspire relationships within groups, adding positivity and fitness throughout. (What’s more, research has shown that maintaining a healthy social life can help extend life expectancy!)
“When you do resistance or strength training, very important chains of molecules that transmit signals between cells are affected, and these changes remain in the body for hours after training, creating a cumulative and positive effect. Even a low-intensity strength and walking. program has significant benefits,” says Fielding. And he practices what he preaches, adding: “I’ve always run three or four times a week, but about three years ago, I started making strength training part of my routine and I feel stronger. My goal is to be able to do things I enjoy, including downhill skiing, as long as I can, and the best way to do that is to try to stay active.”
There is another benefit of strength training that should not be overlooked. Strength training coupled with a healthy diet can be quite beneficial when dealing with obesity, says scientist Dennis T. Villareal, MD, a professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston (via the National Institute on Aging). This dynamic duo is even more effective than simply dieting or doing aerobic exercise alone. Villareal points out, “About one-third of older adults are obese, and that number is expanding rapidly.”
Obesity requires extra muscle mass to move the extra body weight. Villareal continues to explain, “Resistance training is the most important component because it builds muscle and reduces the loss of muscle mass. As the relationship between body mass and muscle becomes more positive, participants lose more fat than they lose muscle, so relative sarcopenia is improved.” significantly. Combining the two types of exercise had additive effects, so they were better together than apart.”
It may not be fun to hear, but as you age, your body doesn’t respond to exercise as well as it did when you were younger. Don’t compare yourself to someone younger.
“We all need to think about how to build a strong muscle base to prepare for the loss of muscle and strength we’ll experience as we age,” suggests Barb Nicklas, Ph.D., professor, gerontology and geriatric medicine, Wake. Forest University School of Medicine (via the National Institute on Aging). Nicklas adds, “A 60-year-old is very different from an 80-year-old. We have to be careful about lumping all old people into the same category. Aging starts at birth and continues throughout our lifespan, exercise to help prevent disease and disability is very important. Movement, strength and balance training is important at any age, but we need to adjust our expectations.”
Fielding explains that it’s important to just do what works for you, noting that some may prefer group fitness, while others like solo routines. Whatever you prefer, he notes that setting “realistic goals” is key. “A good goal is about 150 minutes per week of moderate-level exercise, but you see benefits even at levels lower than that. Older adults should try to get in strength training mixed in one to two times a week ,” says Fielding.