Resistance Training: The Fountain of Youth
Myths about strength training still abound: weight training makes you inflexible. You’ll gain weight. The muscles will push the fat outward making you look fatter. If you stop weight training, the muscle will turn into fat. All untrue, and even better, the benefits go far beyond what the average person knows.
As we age oxygen capacity declines; body fat increases; muscles atrophy; muscle strength degenerates; and bone mass dwindles. Strength training can reverse, or prevent, these five fundamental changes. Let’s look at each of the five and how strength training counteracts each.
l Oxygen capacity decline. The more muscle mass you have, the more efficiently your body utilizes oxygen. For example, a group of runners who took a 10-week weight-training program mixed in with their regular running ran more efficiently, running the same pace using less oxygen.
l Body fat increase and muscle atrophy. The less muscle mass, the slower the metabolism; the slower the metabolism, the more body fat gained; the more body fat gained, the slower the metabolism; and on and on it goes. How to stop this vicious circle? Weight training, of course.
Muscle increases metabolism because it’s an active tissue. Each pound of muscle in your body burns 35 calories a day just staying alive, while a pound of fat burns four. In other words, more muscle allows you to burn more calories on a daily basis, even in your sleep.
l Muscle strength decrease. In addition to being able to open jars and carry your own groceries, muscle strength is related directly to quality of life. When muscle strength degenerates, energy goes along with it. You’ll be more likely to sit around. It becomes harder to sleep even though you’re more tired. Depression may set in.
l Decreased bone mass. Bottom line, working with weights increases bone density by promoting bone modeling. This means that the bones “grow” when overload strain is placed on them, much the same way muscles enlarge when overload strain is applied. In addition, weight lifting also increases strength in tendons and ligaments, which stabilize joints.
The American College of Sports Medicine exercise guidelines include eight to ten different exercises for the major muscle groups: legs, trunk, shoulders and arms, performed at least twice a week, using enough resistance to bring you close to muscle fatigue. Whatever route you choose, strength training is an essential part of optimum health – now and into your golden years.