Healthcare practitioners will tell you that adults of age 65 years and above should spend at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, in moderate aerobic exercise such as brisk walking. Further, they should do strength training at least 2 days a week.
However, according to researchers at the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who have analyzed data from various surveys, seniors in the US are not getting the recommended fill of exercise.
Exercise in general helps older adults fight chronic diseases better, sleep better and reduce the risk of dementia. Muscle strengthening that comes from weight training or strength training provides additional benefits as outlined below.
Fight sarcopenia or age-related muscle loss
As we grow older, there is a steady decline in the ability to build or retain muscle mass due to various factors. Strength training helps you reverse this to a good extent. Seniors who do strength training show significant improvement in muscle mass and muscle quality. At a cellular level, what is happening is that nutrients and oxygen are delivered better to muscles which help them function better.
Fight obesity and increase metabolism
Weight training helps increase muscle mass which reduces the mortality rate in people with heart disease. It also burns abdominal, visceral and subcutaneous fat better, contributing to weight loss. Further, strength training boosts production of the hormone Irisin. Irisin converts metabolically-inactive white fat into heat-generating brown fat. This in turn boosts your metabolism.
Improve functional independence and reduce the risk of falling
After 60 years of age, there is a slow decline in neuromuscular functioning which affects the balance, movement control and flexibility in the joints. This increases the risk of falling and fractures in older adults. Both low and high-volume weight training can reverse these effects and make day-to-day living a breeze.
Improve quality of life
Aches, pains and urinary incontinence are quite common with advancing age. Further, there is a decline in memory and cognitive abilities and a higher risk of dementia. All these have an impact on the mental and emotional health of older adults. Weight training helps reverse all these by improving various health parameters and health factors. There is reduced pain, improved functional capabilities and better mental health.
Improve bone health and fight arthritis better
When muscles are flexed or contracted during weight training, they tug at the connecting bones, and this triggers production of new cells in the bone. When this happens repeatedly, more minerals are delivered to the bone, which increases the bone density. These factors help overcome arthritic pain, increase flexibility in the joints and improve overall movement.
Improve cardiovascular health
Weight training achieves precisely the recommended composition of fat in the blood: higher good cholesterol (HDL), reduced bad cholesterol and reduced triglycerides. It also reduces the systolic and disastolic blood pressure, and fights inflammatory molecules such as C-reactive protein that affect heart health.
Improve mental health
With advancing age, some seniors tend to develop dementia, depression, anxiety, mood swings, mental fatigue and low self-esteem. Weight-training can reverse all of these and this has been demonstrated in various experiments conducted on seniors.
Increase cognitive functioning
Learning, memory and high-level thinking reduces with advancing age because for one, these faculties are used less, and second – due to a decline in other health parameters. Weight training and the increased metabolism that comes with it means, more oxygen-rich blood is being supplied to the brain. This helps retain and improve your mental abilities with time.
Fight Type-2 diabetes
Weight training reduces fasting blood-sugar levels and insulin resistance. It is known to boost the production of various biochemical substances in the body such as hSGLT3 mRNA, Glucose Transporter Type-4, miR-146a and Adinopectin. All of these directly or indirectly regulate glucose levels and breakdown fatty acids. It also reduces levels of interleukin-5, tumor necrosis factor, C-reactive protein, interleukin-1 beta and TGF-Beta 1 which are harmful to various biological processes in the body.
Improve quality of sleep
Weight training is known to improve quality of sleep, reduce the time taken to fall asleep and minimize the effects of obstructive sleep apnoea which reduce sleep quality.
If you are an older adult and want to improve the quality of your life, weight training is inevitable. Invest in a personal trainer who has experience in this field, and you will be able to enjoy the benefits for the rest of your life.