Why strenuous exercise is great for older adults, too
We have somehow developed the mistaken idea that older adults should avoid all intensive forms of exercise. We worry that their bodies won’t be able to handle the strain, or that they will fall and hurt themselves.
In fact, when strenuous physical activity is performed by seniors in a safe and appropriate way, the results are incredibly positive.
A recent meta-analysis of the research showed that weight lifting is particularly beneficial, bringing the idea of strength training for seniors to the nation’s attention.
We break down what the report found below, and how you can take action in response to the findings.
HIGH STAKES FOR SENIORS
Supporting seniors’ health became a serious concern of biologist and former powerlifter Nicholas Rizzo, who wanted to help his parents maintain their mobility and vitality as they aged.
Rizzo dove into the research and found that 80% of adults are not engaging in sufficient rates of physical activity to prevent disease.
One study concluded that a lack of physical exercise is as deadly as smoking, responsible for 5.3 million of the 57 million deaths in 2008.
A highly effective way to combat this outcome, according to the research? Picking up those dumbbells.
WEIGHT LIFTING FOR A LONGER LIFE
Let’s start with this stunning statistic: adults 65 years and older who did strength training twice a week had a 46% lower mortality rate than those who abstained.
Factors such as diet and health conditions were all controlled for in the study behind that statistic, showing that weight lifting really was the difference maker.
Weight lifting was shown to reduce all causes of death, including cancer and cardiac-related mortalities.
TOP FIVE BENEFITS OF PUMPING THE IRON
Here are the major benefits of strength training for seniors according to Rizzo’s meta-analysis of over 200 studies:
- Burns fat and helps you lose weight
- Produces higher levels of the hormone isrin, which plays a major role in converting (bad) white fat into heat-generating (good) brown fat.
- 10 weeks of training was shown to increase metabolic rates by 7%.
- Volunteers in one study added 2.4 pounds of muscle and saw their physical age reduce by an average 5 years.
- Helps you stay functionally independent
- Improves static and dynamic balance in seniors.
- Reverses the decline in neuromuscular functioning that comes with aging (subconscious processing that influences your ability to move fluidly).
- Leads to more functional frontal hip flexions (the bending of the joint).
- Improves performance of tasks such as climbing stairs, standing up from chairs or sitting down in chairs.
- Reduces the fear of falling (thanks to increased body confidence and performance).
- Increases your cognitive abilities
- Improves memory and overall cognitive functioning.
- Promotes higher levels of BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factors), which help neurons survive and encourage growth of new neurons that affect learning, memory, and higher-level thinking.
- Fights type 2 diabetes
- Consistently reduces insulin resistance.
- A single session can improve insulin sensitivity for up to 24 hours.
- Reduces inflammatory molecules that worsen state of diabetes.
- Improves your quality of life
- Reduces general aches and pains that often come with aging.
- Increases opportunities for participating in a wider range of activities.
- Lowers risk of every major disease affecting seniors.
- Improves mental, emotional, and cognitive health.
HOW TO START WEIGHTLIFTING
When starting a training program, you don’t need to pick up the heavy weights right away, not at all. You can start with exercises that use your own body weight, and slowly start to add weights from there.
Make sure not to overdo it when first starting out! This is a classic beginner’s mistake. Take it slow, gradually build up, and you will be amazed by the results.
Make sure to ask your doctor before beginning a training regimen. Work with a personal trainer or seek free online resources, especially videos, to make sure that you understand the correct form for each exercise.
Understanding proper form is the key to avoiding self-injury, and also helps you target muscles in the most efficient way, ensuring you get the most out of your workout.
A quick search on Youtube will give you weight training plans for beginners, including exercises for each muscle group, suggested number of repetitions and rest times, and more.
READY TO GET STARTED?
Overall, weightlifting has been shown to help seniors maintain more limber, agile bodies, prevent accidents, and fortify their entire wellbeing so that they are better able to ward off illness and live a longer, happier life.
Talk to your doctor about your weight lifting plan, do your research, and get ready to make gains in more than just your muscles; watch your entire quality of life improve as well!