Something that has been on my mind lately, mainly due to changes happening at work and people I meet and talk with, is the concept of strength training as an effective antidote for degenerative age-related conditions. Being a Gen-X’er, and right on the heels of my Baby Boomer peers, I’m especially interested in health and fitness updates that pertain to my age-group.
Sarcopenia, for example, comes up a lot in my area of work. It’s the condition referred to when talking about the loss of muscle mass and strength that occurs as a person ages. Or how about Creeping Obesity, the term used to describe the slow but significant accumulation of body fat that commonly occurs through the ages of 20 to 50.
Believe it or not, the average person can expect to gain approximately 20kg over 30 years; that’s a lot! The congruent occurrence of fat gain and muscle loss is so slow and subtle – hence the term “creeping” – that unfortunately it’s often not until the mid-life years that it becomes suddenly evident.
Through my job, I’ve met (and continue to meet) way too many middle-aged men and women who wished they had started a strength training program years ago. Fortunately for them and for others who might think it’s too late, the latest research indicates that we can manipulate, to some degree, the rate at which we will age.
A key piece of research for example, was conducted in 1992 by William Evans, PhD, and Irwin H. Rosenberg, M.D. Both surmised from their findings that there are 10 biomarkers of aging; that is, ten things that “mark” or indicate a person’s age if it was not known how old that person was (and let’s face it, you only need to compare a line-up of several men and women the same age to see that some individuals age faster than others):
- Muscle Mass
- Muscle Strength
- Basal Metabolic Rate
- Body Fat Percentage
- Aerobic Capacity
- Blood-Sugar Management
- Cholesterol/HDL Ratio
- Blood Pressure
- Bone Density
- Ability to regulate Internal Temperature
What’s really interesting about these biomarkers, is that it was also deduced that all ten of them can be improved by strength training. In the past, men and women focused predominantly on aerobic exercise for the maintenance of good health and fitness (and hopefully less fat and less visible signs of aging), but the latest research places strength training at the top of the list for working against the biomarkers mentioned above.
I love how world-renowned Personal Trainer, Nick Mitchell, describes the physical success of older individuals who enjoy and follow a regular strength training routine; he sums it up nicely and asks the question, “Why on earth isn’t everyone lifting weights?” I ask the same!
Excerpt from Nick Mitchell’s article The Difference: Growing Old Versus Staying Young:
They have stronger bones, infinitely better posture, carry themselves like much younger people, and always, because of the positive metabolic by-products and hormonal stimuli of lifting weights at a certain high intensity (in this case degree of intensity is defined as being how close you are to lifting a load that represents your one repetition maximum) have an energy, enthusiasm and zest for life that normally dissipates as testosterone, thyroid and Growth Hormone levels decline with age. These are the guys (and increasingly the girls) who “get it”. The ones who appreciate the fact that science now bears out what they have long known instinctively – that properly conducted resistance training sessions can profoundly improve one’s quality of life by boosting all the key aforementioned hormones associated with vitality and youth. In other words a well thought out and consistently applied weight training plan will put both a spring in your step and lead in your pencil! Anti-aging certainly, reverse-aging potentially.
All this clinical and anecdotal evidence only leads me to ask the one question – why on earth isn’t everyone lifting weights? I myself don’t ever want to grow old…instead I plan on aging well!
A final note: strength training doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to invest in a gym membership. Don’t give yourself permission to ignore your health by coming up with excuses; there are various “free” online at-home strength training (without equipment) videos that you can pick and choose from. I often train at home when I don’t have time to get into the gym. Just 30 minutes a day two or three times a week will get you moving in the right direction……