Weightlifting has many benefits, the main one being it allows you to build muscle strength.
As we age, our joints become stiff, we lose muscle and our posture lapses. Weight lifting targets all of these: it helps build and retain muscles, lubricates joints and reduces stiffness, and strengthens our muscles and bones to reduce the risk of us falling and sustaining a serious injury.
However, while most weightlifters focus on strength, muscle power could be the best kept secret for enabling us to live longer. That’s according to Professor Claudio Gil Araújo, director of research and education at Brazil’s Exercise Medicine Clinic, CLINIMEX.
“Rising from a chair in old age and kicking a ball depend more on muscle power than muscle strength, yet most weight bearing exercise focuses on the latter,” Professor Araújo previously noted.
His research found that people with more muscle power tend to live longer. Plus focusing on muscle power makes sense - think about it: most of our day-to-day movements rely on muscle power, rather than muscle strength.
But what exactly is muscle power?
Muscle power is the body’s ability to combine force and velocity within a coordinated movement.
Power is increased when the same amount of work is done in a shorter space of time, or when more work is carried out in the same amount of time.
So whether weightlifters live longer largely depends on how much focus they place on power.
According to Professor Araújo: “for optimal power training results, you should go beyond typical strength training and add speed to your weight lifts.”
Humans experience a decrease in muscle power from the age of 40, so to increase and maintain muscle power, the European Society of Cardiology suggest the following exercises:
- Select multiple exercises for the upper and lower body
- Choose a weight that is not too easy to lift, but not too heavy either - as this is the best way to achieve maximal power
- Do one to three sets of six to eight repetitions moving the weight as fast as possible while you contract your muscles (slow or natural speed in returning to initial position)
- Replenish your energy stores by resting for 20 seconds between each set.
- Repeat the above for the other exercises you do (biceps curl, etc.).
Does lifting weights slow down aging?
Everybody ages, it’s a fact of life, but it’s well-documented that exercise is key to slowing down aging, and it’s thought that strength training is one of the best forms of exercise at our disposal.
Lifting weights - even for a short duration - helps build muscle strength, increases mobility, and keeps muscle and skin looking toned and supple.
Strength training allows us to rejuvenate and rebuild bigger and more powerful muscle fibers known as Type II or ‘fast twitch’ muscle. Strength training also slows down the aging process at the cellular and genetic level, increases your energy, protects against the effects of aging, and improves insulin resistance and brain function.
Is weight lifting good for seniors?
Yes, weight training is great for seniors.
As we age, we become prone to a range of health ailments - we lose muscle, become stiffer and experience skeletal and muscular weakness. Some of us also develop conditions such as Osteoporosis and Arthritis.
The older we get, the more muscle we lose. Muscle loss is a condition known as Sarcopenia, and inactive and unfit individuals are far more prone to it. Physically inactive people can lose between 3 to 5 percent of their muscle mass per decade after they hit 30, and this increases at an accelerated rate at the age of around 65. The weaker you get, the less resilience you have to falls and fractures.
It’s not just our muscles that suffer, either. As we age, our skeletons become more subject to Arthritis (joint inflammation), Osteoarthritis (cartilage breakdown), and Osteoporosis (bone weakness). These conditions can cause discomfort, pain and decreased mobility, as well as a higher risk of fractures and life-threatening falls.
Lifting weights can keep muscles strong and supple, while also lubricating the joints, strengthening bones and controlling joint swelling and pain.
However, as many of us are aware, it’s not just our health which deteriorates with age, but our appearance changes, too. Many of us put on weight as we get older, and strength training is great for keeping off visceral fat, which is the fat that surrounds your internal organs and poses a threat to your heart.
Strength training can also keep our skin toned. For example, if you lose weight through aerobic exercise like walking, lifting weights or strength training is a great way to retain muscle tone and skin elasticity.
With age also comes muscular degeneration, which, as we said, gets worse as we age. This can become reflected in our posture - with many seniors appearing hunched over. Strength training helps you build and retain the muscle and strength required for good posture.
Without a doubt, weightlifting offers a myriad of benefits which can help slow down the aging process.
While we all have to age, we can certainly build up strength and resilience to minimize the negative effects of aging.
Strong muscles provide a foundation for good health. Not only can lifting weights help keep us active and mobile as we get older, it can help us retain muscle and lower visceral fat.
It also reduces our chances of developing conditions such as Osteoporosis, Sarcopenia and Arthritis, as well as improving our posture and keeping our skin toned.
Having strong muscles also reduces the risk of falling over and sustaining serious injuries.
While aerobic activity is also important, weight lifting can certainly improve longevity.