Why Strength Training Is Key to Living Longer
Strength training: it does a body good. It’s not hype. Studies show that people who include strength training as part of their regular routines tend to live longer than those who don’t. Greater muscle mass equals greater longevity—and a better, more productive life at that.
What is Strength Training?
Like it probably sounds, strength training is working with weights to increase your strength, but beyond that, it’s also working out in a manner that helps you maintain the muscle mass you have while building additional muscle tissue over time.
You may know strength training by some of its other names like resistance training, weight training, bodybuilding, pumping iron, anaerobic training, isometrics, free weights, lifting, etc. They all mean basically the same type of exercise, and that is movement against gravity or an immoveable surface. The idea is to use your muscles to oppose a force whether you are using machines, dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, ropes, bands, cables, or any other kind of equipment, including bodyweight training.
Why Should You Strength Train?
If your goal is to stay young and vital, then you’ll want to adopt resistance training as a lifestyle. Yes, strength training is, indeed, your fountain of youth. In fact, merely just “being active” isn’t enough. A lot of folks subscribe to the 30 minutes a day of aerobic exercise lifestyle. And while that’s not a bad plan, it’s simply not enough.
A study at the University of Michigan showed that consistent aerobic activity, while heart healthy, is not sufficient to maintain muscle mass as you get older. Even those who considered themselves “master athletes” were left wanting when it came to muscle mass. Even though they continued to swim, bike, or run, they did not maintain muscle better than their sedentary counterparts.
While they were certainly among the fittest of their age group, their physiques were no match for their peers who engaged in regular strength training. The study showed that by employing weight training with a progressive overload training technique (i.e., continuing to challenge their muscles) those folks who were older in age were able to build and maintain muscle.
And the good news doesn’t end there either. The study went on to show that older folks who’d been consistently weight training for about 15 years or so were just as fit, and often much more fit and muscular, than people 40 to 50 years their juniors.
Longevity Benefits to Strength Training
Besides the obvious visual pleasure you’ll get from looking good and being toned, there are other health reasons to keep up with the weights. As we age, we experience something called sarcopenia. This is when the body gradually loses muscle tissue and strength over time as you age. Shockingly, this can start as you hit the tender age of 40.
Why is this a problem? Well, muscle tissue is metabolically active, meaning it requires calories to exist. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism. Conversely, the less muscle you carry on your frame, the less calories you need on a daily basis, and that means it’s easier to put on body fat. So, building muscle can help you stay fit and lean no matter your age.
Additionally, working your muscles will improve your strength, and that’s also important as you get older. Being strong can help you perform normal daily functions that will keep you independent, such as carrying groceries into the house, walking the dog, moving furniture, taking out the trash, etc. But, strength is more than that.
Being strong can help you maintain your balance, which is vital as you get older. You don’t want to risk a fall if you can help it. Frailty, imbalance, and weak bones are big contributors to untimely deaths, so do yourself a favor and work on your strength training for your own longevity.
Speaking of falls, strength training also strengthens your bones. Not only do we lose muscle mass as we age, but we lose bone density as well… that is, unless you’re doing lots of strength training. Science also shows us that it strengthens bones in a big way. It’s never too late to get started with strength training either. Studies show that people into their 90s still benefit from a regular weight-training program.
An experiment at the University of Navarre had 24 participants ages 91 – 96 perform a 12-week training program focused on strength and balance training. At the end of the 12 weeks, they experienced more muscle and strength, better balance, a greater functional capacity, and improved health markers across the board.
What Kind of Training Program Should You Follow?
The best kind of program you can follow is what’s called a “progressive resistance” training protocol. What does this mean? It means that you start lifting an amount of weight that you’re comfortable lifting. Then, with each successive workout, you aim to improve in some small way, whether it’s lifting more weight than you lifted last time, doing a few more repetitions than you did before, or decreasing your rest time in-between sets.
Science also says that using a progressive resistance training program can help you increase your muscle mass by as much as 5 pounds in a mere 6 months, and you can improve your strength by up to 150%! That’s some great progress, and you can see why it’s so helpful when it comes to fighting off Father Time.
Ready to get started? We have some great workouts here:
- Dad Bod Workout Plan
- Get Fit by Spring
- 7 Simple Anywhere Workouts for the “I’m Too Busy” Crowd
- The Complete No Equipment Workout Guide for Beginners
- 30-Day At-Home Workout Program
- The Full-Body, 4-Week Single Kettlebell Workout