We have talked about how important Weightlifting is on our social media networks, however we figured a blog post outlining the benefits of Weightlifting while aging will help illustrate what is really going on.
Lifting as we age
As we grow older, our muscles and metabolisms begin to deteriorate. For the average person, once we leave early adulthood the frequency of exercise drops drastically. We often settle into mundane routines with little to no variety, which leads us down a path of rapid aging. First and foremost is our ability to be physical.
For many, maintaining an active lifestyle as they age can become very difficult. At the later stages of life, the strength and durability that was present before, is no longer there. This leads to injury, lack of motivation, and more stagnation. Physicality, however, is not the only aspect of youth that will be hindered without the use of muscle mass. Our muscle mass dictates the rate at which our metabolism functions. The more mass we have, the more fat our body will need to burn in order to maintain the muscle that has been built. As we age, our muscle mass is harder to maintain as our metabolism has already become weakened.
Physicality and metabolic rates are not the only functions that are seen to decline. As muscle mass is lost, so is cognition. It has been shown that there is a correlation between muscle mass and brain function, with the main connection being that how physically active we are has a correlation to how active we are mentally.
So how do we approach an activity, such as weightlifting, that may be foreign to much of the aging population?
The ability to have mobility, strength, and endurance is something that is becoming increasingly infrequent among those in the later stages of life. The majority of this age group (35-70+) can be found eluding many of these things. Instead of frequent and consistent exercise, they are often sporadic in the frequency or intensity of physical activity. So it can be concluded that initially, this age group is already at a disadvantage.
Another thing to keep in mind is the mentality surrounding exercise and physical activity when this older generation was growing up. The general consensus for most of the population was that running, eating within old school food pyramid (mostly carbs), and sometimes getting into the gym was all that it took to be healthy. As time went on, we discovered more about how diet and exercise effects how we feel and live. Therefore, it is important to disregard the out-dated standards, and look at what is being shown to work today.
What weightlifting has the ability to do, in addition to other exercise, is create a base in which you can build upon. A lot of injuries seen from exercise can be prevented with the proper weight training and muscle building in that area. For those with bad joints, lifting weights and thus building muscle in those areas will do more than strengthen the area. It fortifies your body, creating pathways for faster healing, recovery, and output.
The way that our muscles work is similar to the foundation of a house. When a house is first built, you can see only the skeleton, being the initial outline of what the structure is going to look like. Then around this skeleton, is the fortification. Supports around the main structure, ensuring that there can be pressure and stress applied without it becoming damaged. Our body operates in a very similar way. Our muscles are simply a reinforcement for our bones, joints, organs, etc. With out this support, our house could potentially collapse at any moment.
Therefore if we view our body in that same way, it would seem ridiculous that you would build a house with no support or reinforcement. So why would we do this with our bodies? The less we do to help prevent injury, frailness, and the deterioration of our performance, the sooner these preventable aspects of the later life become a reality.
Inevitably, as we age our metabolism slows. As the body ages, it simply stops growing and developing at the same rate that it used to. Therefore, we begin to use less energy which will result in our metabolism slowing in the process. However, are we meant to stop growing and developing? The older we become, it is almost socially acceptable to do less. This is not a logical approach, unless you are in the late stages of life, approaching 80+ years. In some instances, there are people who are 35-45 that have the body of someone who is 60+. This is seen to be the result of unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, lack of mental engagement and growth, and lastly a weakened metabolism.
Building muscle is an overlooked necessity throughout all stages of life. There is no age limit on the ability to gain and retain muscle. It is estimated that every pound of muscle gained, burns roughly 6 calories a day at rest. A pound of fat burns roughly two calories per day, which means muscle burns three times as many calories as fat. There is also the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, which is commonly known as the "afterburn effect". This concept refers to the oxygen (and energy in the form of calories) that your body uses to help repair your muscles after exercise. Strength training specifically enhances this process due to the fact that the workout sessions cause more physiological stress to the body. If there is more muscle to repair, the body will need to use more energy (calories) in order to recover.
Studies have shown that at an early age of 30 the body begins to lose muscle mass, and that decline comes with a declining metabolism. This decline in metabolic rate is one cause of why woman begin to put on weight after their hitting peak muscle levels in their 20s. With an appropriate strength training program, you can prevent muscle loss and potentially maintain these muscle levels and a healthy metabolic rate throughout life.