As you pass into middle age, you may think you have many more important things to worry about than being able to complete two sets of repetitions on the weight machine circuit. But Carroll Patin Jr., Exercise Specialist with Dynamic Dimensions in Moss Bluff, says that in reality, building your muscles is more important than ever as you get older. “Muscles get weaker as you age, and this can cause problems that may impact an active, independent life. Fortunately, the trend can be reversed with some simple strength training exercises.”
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends weight training, also called strength training, for all people over age 50, and even people well into their 90s can benefit. “Strength training can lead to physical improvements for anyone, even for people who may feel that they are too frail to lift weights,” says Patin. “Balance is better, walking pace quickens and activities like climbing stairs become less challenging.”
Patin says other benefits of strength training include:
— Improved walking ability. A University of Vermont study of healthy seniors ages 65 to 79 found that participants could walk almost 40 percent farther without a rest after about 12 weeks of weight training. This is important not only for the fact that the improved endurance allows people to do many more of the activities they enjoy, but because among seniors, insufficient leg strength is a powerful predictor of future disabilities, including the inability to walk.
— Prevention of broken bones. Weight lifting can protect you from potentially debilitating fractures in several ways. Strength training boosts your strength, balance and agility, making it less likely you’ll experience a fall. A study at Tufts University found that older women who lifted weights for a year improved their balance by 14 percent. Weight training can also build bone mass in the spine and hip, helping to protect against osteoporosis.
— Relief from arthritis pain. By strengthening the muscles, tendons and ligaments around your joints, weight lifting can significantly improve your range of motion. It can also cut down on pain by increasing the capability of muscles surrounding the afflicted joint, which eases stress on the joint itself. Arthritis sufferers should begin by using light weights and work up to heavier ones very gradually.
— Ease in performing day-to-day tasks. By giving you the strength to handle your daily routines, weight lifting can help you maintain your independence. Researchers at the University of Alabama found that healthy women ages 60 to 77 who lifted weights three hours each week for 16 weeks could carry groceries and get up from a chair with much less effort than before.
— Weight loss. Lifting weights doesn’t burn many calories, but it does stimulate your metabolism. Strength training helps build muscle, which burns calories more efficiently than fat. Combining strength training with a healthy diet is the right combination for losing unwanted pounds.