Strength training, also known as weight training is an essential exercise routine that everyone should be practicing.
This type of training involves lifting weights in a repetitive fashion until your muscles reach what’s known as “muscular failure”; as this happens, the microscopic fibers inside your muscles will be torn apart, which may sound bad at first, but it’s our goal from the beginning.
The microscopic tearing will help your muscles increase in size, making you more fit and helping you lose extra weight.
In fact, some professional trainers argue that strength training is the single most effective way to lose weight compared to other exercise routines.
Who can lift weights?
Usually, when we think about weight lifting, the picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger in his 20’s comes to mind; this has led people to think that strength training is more of a youth exercise and if you are old, it’s not for you.
Researchers have debunked this myth repeatedly. Nowadays, doctors recommend weight lifting to all age groups, especially older people, and I’ll tell you why.
As we age, a parameter called the basal metabolic rate (BMR) will slowly decrease.
BMR is the number of calories your body needs to maintain the functioning of your internal organs and to keep you awake.
This parameter is dependent on multiple factors, including age, body type, weight, gender, and lean muscle mass.
The reason BMR decreases with age is the continuous shrinking in the muscle mass. Low BMR means fewer calories being burned, which eventually means that you start storing more fat in your adipose tissues.
But here’s the tricky part; when people weigh themselves, the number they see on the scale might be in the healthy weight range. So, their weight is appropriate but their cholesterol and fatty acids levels are high. This state is referred to by nutritionists as “metabolically obese”.
As a result, people will have more risk of developing chronic diseases such as coronary artery disease, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease).
By lifting weight, you can prevent this process and the diseases associated with it.
To summarize, strength training is for everyone regardless of their age (of course, you have to be old enough).
One exception to this rule might be debilitating medical conditions that cannot be compatible with intense physical activity. For these patients, discussing this option with their physician is the best course of action
The benefits of strength training
Increases lean muscle mass
As we mentioned earlier, consistent strength training will increase your muscle mass by causing microscopic tearing in the muscle fibers.
When the body tries to repair these injuries, it will adapt to the increased needs caused by intense workouts, and the process will result in bigger muscles.
Burns fat faster
Besides increasing your BMR, weight lifting will help you burn fat faster by using calories to repair the muscular damage caused by your workout. Subsequently, you will be burning calories as you sleep, which is a great investment if you ask me.
Enhances bone mineral density (BMD)
Multiple studiesfound that resistance training (a.k.a weight lifting) can enhance your bone and articular health by promoting the action of osteoblasts, which are the cells responsible for the mineralization of bones.
The cornerstone of osteoporosis pathophysiology is the disrupted balance between osteoblasts and osteoclasts activity. In this case, the osteoclasts are more active than osteoblasts and cause the breakdown of bones, which increases the risk of patients to get frequent fractures.
Physicians recommend strength training for patients with less severe symptoms to improve their BMD.
Additionally, your flexibility will significantly increase, reducing the risk of injuries, as a result.
Improves cognitive functions
This is especially beneficial for older individuals who are at risk for age-related mental deterioration. Researchers at Seoul National University College of Medicine conducted a study to assess the effects of resistance training on cognitive functions.
The study concluded that “high-speed resistance exercise training approaches are effective in improving cognitive function and physical performance in older adults with cognitive frailty. This study shows that it is feasible to identify older adults with cognitive frailty in the community and primary care setting for effective intervention to reduce their level of frailty and cognitive impairment.”
In other words, strength training could be used as a treatment modality for patients at a higher risk of cognitive impairment.
Reduces symptoms of some diseases
Whether it’s musculoskeletal, digestive, pulmonary, or cardiac symptoms, strength training can reduce the frequency and severity of many symptoms, including back pain, joint pain, and digestive problems.
This is mediated via the regulation of hormones and increasing the secretion of endorphins, which are potent painkillers.
What are the best exercises to start doing?
In the beginning, choosing what exercises to perform can be overwhelming and intimidating. To overcome this, you need to start slow and build your way up.
For example, during the first few weeks, you should focus more on moving your body and getting used to the vibe of the gym. Of course, you must lift some weight but start with light weights to give time for your body to adapt to the new movements.
After a week or two, you can start doing actual exercises and increase the weight you lift.
For more information about the type of exercises you can perform, visit this page.
As you can see, resistance training is very important for a multitude of reasons, and everyone should integrate it as part of their physical activity routine.
Hopefully, by now, you know the major benefits of weight lifting and how it could improve your health in many ways, especially for older people who have to deal with several chronic diseases that only worsen with time.
If you have ever tried strength training or know someone who had, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.