Living longer and better starts with not dying. Older adults (classed as over 30, can you believe) that participate in strength training at least two times per week have 46% lower odds of death for any reason than those that do not strength train.
We all know that exercise is good for you. It reduces obesity, heart disease, diabetes, improves your mental health, reduces the risk of cancer, and is proven to decrease the risk of mortality significantly. But it's not just beneficial in the way we usually understand. It's also one of the best defenses against the toughest aspects of ageing.
As we get older, we tend to slow down, but as the famous Helen Hayes quote says - "if you rest, you rust". No one wants to lose energy, speed up their biological clock, brace for memory loss, or grab their back every time they bend over. While there is no doubt genetic and environmental factors play a role, most of the symptoms accompanying ageing can be slowed and even reversed through exercise.
Society today loves the short-term cosmetic fixes against ageing, but this doesn't change your actual health. It doesn't change your biological age, just your appearance on the outside. What good is all that botox if you are dying on the inside?
Strength training is one of the most powerful solutions we have at our disposal in our battle with father time. Here are three reasons why:
1. It slows down muscle loss
As people age, they loose muscle mass and strength, known as sarcopenia. After 30, we begin to lose 3-5% muscle mass per decade, which accelerates over time if nothing is done about it. While we acknowledge 'slowing down' is part of life, many don't understand the direct correlation between how we feel (the slowing of our metabolism, loss of mental sharpness, and mobility) with the loss of muscle mass.
Strength training is vital in maintaining metabolism, muscle strength, and power as we age; it makes everyday activities far less complicated. It also helps maintain strength and power, making daily activities like cooking, cleaning, and climbing stairs less difficult. It can also help reduce susceptibility to disease, improve brain health and mood and help you maintain your independence longer.
Hippocrates got it right about 2,400 years ago when he said, "That which is used develops; that which is not wastes away."
2. It improves bone density
To keep bones strong, the body breaks down old bone and replaces it with new bone tissue, but from around age 30, bone mass stops increasing. In your 40s and 50s, you slowly start losing more bone than you make.
Numerous studies have shown that strength training can play a role in slowing bone loss, and several show it can even build bone. This is tremendously useful to help offset age-related declines in bone mass. Activities that put stress on bones can nudge bone-forming cells into action. That stress comes from the tugging and pushing on the bone that occurs during strength training (as well as weight-bearing aerobic exercises like running). The result is stronger, denser bones. Strength training, in particular, has bone benefits beyond those offered by aerobic weight-bearing exercise. It targets the bones of the hips, spine, and wrists, which are most likely to fracture as we age.
3. It lengthens Telomeres - slowing aging at a cellar level
Telomeres are the protein endcaps of our chromosomes. They are like our biological clock, and they are correlated with age. Each time a cell replicates, we lose a tiny bit of the endcaps. Therefore, the older we get, the shorter our telomeres become.
People who have consistently high physical activity levels, including strength training, have significantly longer telomeres than those who don't, meaning they are slowing down aging at a cellar level.
Studies have shown that adults with strength training have telomeres with a biological aging advantage of nine years over sedentary ones and a seven-year advantage compared to those who are moderately active. To be classed as highly active, women had to engage in at least 30 minutes of exercise per day and men 40 minutes, five days a week. So basically, with as little as 30 mins of strength training, you can reduce your cellular age by nine years!!
Scientists also looked at muscle biopsies of 25 elderly active people and 25 inactive young people. They identified 596 genes that were differentially expressed between the two age groups. Of the 596 genes, the researchers identified 179 associated with age and exercise that showed a remarkable reversal in their expression profile after six months of strength training. This means that resistance training can slow down and reverse the ageing process at the genetic level. The genetic expression of the elderly individuals became similar to those of the younger group.
We might not have the fountain of youth, but it is within our power to increase health and longevity. Through strength training and regular exercise, we can slow down the ticking of our biological clocks. We can maintain our muscle mass bone density and reduce our cellular age by nine years! Keeping our bodies young and hopefully having a longer, more fulfilled life.
And the best part, it's never too late to start!