Strength Training For Better AgingOct 28, 2020
Aging is inevitable, but we have the choice to age with grace rather than feeling defeated during the process.
We’ve all heard one time or another we should be doing strength training and resistance training a few times throughout the week. But have you heard why it’s important for you as you age?
We know strength training increases the size of the muscle fibers (hypertrophy), increases lean body mass, reduces body fat and benefits our joints and tendons when done appropriately. Did you know strength training can also help you live a strong and confident life for years to come. Curious how? Read on to learn more.
From birth up into your 30’s we are in general building muscle. At some point around your 30’s your body will start to lose muscle mass and function. Muscle is the foundation of your metabolism, helping to regulate blood sugar and blood lipids. The majority of the health issues affecting adults are not necessarily due to being overweight, but more of lack of strength or lacking muscle. And although we may first think of our appearance and physique, there’s way more going on behind the scenes. Things like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and many other chronic health problems begin with inactive muscles and poor metabolism.
Sedentary and physically inactive people can lose as much as 3-5% of their muscle mass each decade after the age of 30. And even if you are active, you will still have some form of muscle loss. It’s inevitable. An analogy I have found helpful for our clients to visualize this is a marbleized steak. We want our muscles to look less like marbleized steak because over time they can become less efficient and the structure can change to have more fat deposits opposed to the plump, efficient muscle fibers.
Now before we get into the details of the strength training we’d like to start with why protein matters? Protein is essential for our body to function and it really goes far beyond muscle building alone. We need protein for the structure, metabolic function, and regulation of all tissues and organs, including muscle. It’s the building blocks for our bodies. Your bones, your ligaments, your tendons, your liver, your brain, skin, and fingernails are all built from proteins.
As we age there are tissue specific changes occurring within the skeletal muscle that if unaddressed will impact your health.
A specific change is a decrease in efficiency of protein usage (anabolic resistance). Anabolic resistance essentially means skeletal muscle becomes resistant to lower protein diets. Therefore, adequate protein with each meal is key to overcome this efficiency issue. It is recommended when you eat enough dietary protein you can facilitate the process of protein synthesis. If you eat inadequate protein at each meal you do not optimize muscle protein synthesis. The research shows that by increasing dietary protein (minimum of 30 grams - roughly 5 oz) ingested at one time the blood level of leucine increases enough to make older muscle tissue respond like younger muscle tissue according to research from Dr. Gabrielle Lyon.
We know your muscles change as you age. Aging is different for everyone but a sedentary lifestyle and low protein diet can accelerate the process starting in your 30’s.
How can strength training help slow down the inevitable of aging?
As we mentioned above through aging our muscle mass declines. Clinically, it’s known as sarcopenia, the loss of muscle tissue as a natural part of the aging process. Symptoms can include weakness, reduced stamina which can interfere with physical activity. The reduction of physical activity can cause further loss of muscle mass.
In addition to the loss of muscle mass, current evidence suggest this can also contribute to:
- Reduction in nerve cells responsible for sending signals from the brain to the muscles to start movements. Basically saying our reaction time and planning for movements is reduced which can contribute to changes in balance as well over time.
- Lower levels of specific hormones like growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor and testosterone
- A reduced ability to turn protein into energy and recovery
- Not getting enough calories or protein each day to sustain muscle mass
The topics mentioned above are very significant when it comes to your health especially as we age.
Strength Training For Better Aging
Time to talk about strength training and why it’s so important to incorporate in your exercise routine. Our muscles can perform strength, power and endurance. If we’re looking to continue to build strength and muscle mass we must load the muscles appropriately and enough to see a physiological change and adaptation. If we’re only doing bodyweight exercises or low impact exercise we can be doing a disservice for ourselves in the long term. According to the research, using a moderate exercise load of 60-80% of 1 rep maximum that causes fatigue after 8 to 12 repetitions for 2 to 3 sets is necessary for adaptive strength gains. If fatigue no longer occurs after the target number of repetitions has been completed, the level of resistance is increased to overload the muscle once again.
Regardless of your experience or history of strength training, incorporating some simple exercises into your day and having adequate resistance can allow you to build strength to prolong the changes to your body and health over time.
Current research recommends older adults to strength train 2-3 times per week and complete 2-3 sets of 1-2 multi joint exercises per major muscle group at an intensity of 70-85% of 1 repetition maximum plus power exercises performed at a higher velocity with moderate intensity like 40-60% 1 repetition maximum. Interested in learning a few exercises to build strength and confidence as you age? Below we have 4 strength exercises to get you started:
Aging is inevitable, but now we have the choice to age with grace, strength and more muscle mass to thrive in the many years ahead.
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