Resistance Training As We Age – Use It or Lose It

As we become older (30+ yrs) our bodies are changing and many people don’t realize that their normal routines may be hindering their overall health, especially if their routines don’t include regular exercise, “Use It Or Lose It”.  Some adults feel that if exercise hasn’t been included in their routine from an early age that they are too old to begin an exercise regimen once they get older.  This is completely untrue.  Anyone, no matter what your age is, can benefit from exercise, especially strength training.

Many older adults feel that if they begin strength training, they will bulk up and look similar to a body builder.  This is untrue.  Body builders work for many years to look the way they do and most of these body builders are genetically gifted at building muscle.  The genetic potential to build muscle is a factor many people don’t know plays a huge role in the way their body responds to strength training.  And many people, as they age, don’t possess the genetic potential to gain big muscles.

Our muscles are the engine that keeps our bodies functioning properly.  Without healthy muscles, our bodies become weaker and more susceptible to disease and injuries.  Between the ages of 30 and 40 years old, adults who don’t regularly participate in strength training lose about 0.5 pounds of muscle per year.  At 50 years of age, the loss of muscle in the body doubles and you begin to lose 1 pound of muscle per year.  By the age of 80, sedentary males will lose more than 50% of their muscle mass. Losing muscle mass doesn’t mean you are losing weight.  As you lose muscle mass your body remains the same weight (or gets heavier) and you lose the ability to continue your regular routine without any problems.

As you lose muscle mass, your ability to utilize the calories you intake decreases and your metabolism slows down causing you to accumulate more fat – this is something no one wants.  More fat in your body reduces your functional abilities and puts you at risk for developing a slew of health problems: diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease and colon cancer.

Many adults are hesitant to begin a strength training routine but they shouldn’t be because the benefits far outweigh the risks.  Participating in a regular strength routine can increase your lean body weight (muscle mass) and thus increase your physical capabilities and increase your metabolism. 1,644 men and women between the ages of 21-80 years completed a 10-week strength training routine.  The participants of this study lifted for 25 min at a high intensity and biked or walked on the treadmill for 20 min 2 or 3 times a week for 10 weeks.  The results showed that all participants increased their lean body weight (see chart below).  This is excellent news for older individuals – this study shows that adults of all ages benefit from a strength training routine.

Age Lean Body Weight Change
21-44 years +2.5 lbs
45-54 years +3.1 lbs
55-64 years +2.9 lbs
65-80 years +3.2 lbs

There is no denying that strength training is important.  Increasing your muscle mass will increase your metabolism which will thus lead to increases in energy utilization.  Following a strength training session your body will require more energy to function daily. Increasing muscle mass will lead to a decrease in your fat mass.  You may feel hungrier once you begin a strength training routine but it is crucial to remember to eat a balanced diet and not to increase your caloric intake. This extra energy needed will raise your resting metabolic rate, which means you will burn more fat at rest.  Incorporating a strength training regime to your normal routine will make day to day life easier and more enjoyable. “Use It Or Lose It”.

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