Two years ago, when I first moved back to a town I hadn’t lived in for more than 20 years, I joined a gym. I’ll admit, it was a little daunting. Not only would I not know a soul there, but I would have to start doing something that I had been putting off. You guessed it. Weight training! I know that you may not want to be a body builder (it’s great if you do, though!) but that's not what I'm talking about here. Actually, you don’t even have to join a gym, nor do you have to buy fancy equipment, but it is important to understand why lifting weights (a.k.a. “resistance training”) is recommended for people of all ages.
Let’s begin with some facts. If you're under the age of 50, it’s important to have good muscle mass because after that, we start to lose up to one per cent muscle mass per year. That’s up to 30 per cent loss by the time you’re 80. And you can lose your muscle strength even faster than one per cent per year.
So, the more muscle mass you have before age 50, the better off you'll be.
If you're over the age of 50, the more you lift weights, the slower your rate of loss will be. So, why settle for one per cent loss, when you can keep your strength even longer? You can have more muscle AND slow down the rate of muscle loss by lifting weights at all ages.
Lifting weights is not just about muscle “mass” and “strength” though. It's a great way to maintain good health for just about everyone at any age, whether you're athletic or not.
Let’s look at five key health factors that are improved with increased muscle mass.
Reason #1: Resistance training boosts your metabolism
And we all want a healthy metabolism, don't we? Many of us want to want to have more energy, and be able to burn the right amount of calories from our foods.
Guess what your muscles can do, even when they're not working? Burn calories!
And with healthy, strong muscles (like the kind you get from lifting weights), the more calories they burn. Even while you sleep. This is wonderful news! Not only that, but less muscle mass is associated with increased fat stores, as well as increased inflammation. Lifting weights can build up your muscles so they become more efficient metabolism-boosters and calorie burners. Resistance training helps build strong muscles, and reduces fat storage.
Reason #2: Strength
to do everyday things
I think we can all agree that we want to remain independent going into our senior years? I know I do! Activities like carrying your groceries, mowing your lawn, or carrying a basket of laundry up from the basement, are everyday things that help us maintain our independence. They're things that we can do on our own without needing extra help when we have healthy muscles to rely on.
Lifting weights can help reduce our risk of becoming dependent on others for everyday tasks, because “I can do this myself — thank you very much!”
Reason #3: Managing
your blood sugar
Diabetes. Insulin resistance. You've heard of them and they don’t sound healthy.
When your body has trouble maintaining healthy amounts of sugar in your blood (not too much, and not too little), this can cause both short- and long-term issues.
Short-term issues can include things like fatigue and brain fog. And, of course, long-term issues are the potential for insulin resistance, or even diabetes.
And, you'll never guess what can help your body maintain proper blood sugar control…healthy strong muscles!
They do this because they can store and burn excess blood sugar, therefore helping to keep blood sugar levels in just the right place.
Reason #4: Maintaining
Do you know anyone who has broken a bone? What about someone who broke their hip? As you may already know, one in three women and one in five men end up with osteoporosis. Bones can break easily, from a simple slip on soft grass or even carpet.
You’ve probably guessed by now that your bones can stay strong when your muscles stay strong? Weight training also improves balance and reduces the risk of falling, both of which reduce risk of breaking bones.
Reason #5: Longer life and better quality of life
If none of the above reasons resonate with you (but they probably do…), then this one will surely get your attention.
It has been proven that more muscle mass and strength as we age is directly associated with longer life and better quality of life. The news just keeps getting better!
By quality of life, I’m referring to lower rates of heart disease, cancer, mental disorders, etc. I’m referring to being healthy, independent, and keeping your mental sharpness. All of those are huge factors when it comes to quality of life.
Lifting weights can help stave off all of those, so you can truly have a healthy, long life.
In conclusion, lifting weights helps to maintain good health. To me, good health means things like maintaining your metabolism, strength to do everyday things, and keeping your blood sugar and bones healthy. Not to mention living longer ... and better!
So, carry your own groceries, mow your lawn and add some strength training to your routine. Let’s get lifting, shall we?
Janice Amirault is a Registered Holistic Nutritional Consultant (R.H.N.) practicing in Bridgewater and Yarmouth. Amirault can be reached via email or online at www.janiceinspiringchange.com.