Strength training is certainly not just the young man's exercise. Unless we do something about it by the time we reach our 70s strength and muscle tone will have declined as much as 25% from our 30s. That increases to 50% by the time we reach our 90s, again if we don't do anything about it. As we age we might think that since we can't increase muscle mass to a great degree, then what's the point.
The thing is there are a number of reasons why we should keep our strength up as we age. More muscle mass provides a higher resting metabolic rate. This actually allows us to keep the pounds off, because after strength exercise we can continue burning calories as much as three days later. This is not true with traditional cardio. Other benefits are increasing our range of motion, the ability to perform everyday tasks and the prevention of osteoporosis. Strength training is truly a key to healthy aging.
Here are a few of the markers that tell us how our strength is:
- Bone density. The vast majority of research supports the fact that resistance training will increase bone density. There are some studies that contradict this, but this might have something to do with the lack of minerals that go into a good diet. As we age, broken hips and other issues can crop up from brittle bones. A DEXA scan, which is like an x-ray will give us a common measurement of bone density, and is measured for bones in the spine and hip.
- Cardio-respiratory. Cardio-respiratory fitness can be obtained with proper circuit training programs combining resistance training and those that place demands on the cardio-respiratory system. You get a lot more bang for your buck when you use these programs, as you can get much more from them in a shorter period of time. Plus they make exercise a lot more interesting.
- Blood pressure. Lifting weights can both raise or lower your blood pressure. There has been quite a lot written that strength training can actually be detrimental to blood pressure levels, but knowing how to properly weight training can lead to lower blood pressure and improved cardiovascular health. If a person has high blood pressure issues they must be aware of it and monitor it during workouts, and before beginning a program they should of course have a doctor's okay.
- Blood glucose level. Strength training completed over extended periods of time has been found in scientific studies to improve blood sugar levels as well as diabetes drugs. In fact, strength training with people having diabetes has about the same effect that aerobic exercise does. The best combination seems to be using strength training and aerobics to control diabetic conditions.
- Body composition. Strength training can reverse the changes in body composition as people age, particularly when it relates to lean muscle mass and stronger bones. Aging body composition not only represents a common pathway through which multiple diseases can contribute to age-related disabilities, but lean muscle allows us to remain more vibrant in our later years.