Inactive adults experience a 3% to 8% loss of muscle mass per decade. This muscle loss can directly reduce metabolic rate, increase in body fat, reduce bone density and increase risk of diabetes.
However, research shows that just 10 weeks of resistance training can reverse and protect against these things.
What is resistance training?
Any form of exercise or movement where your body is moving a load, this load can be anything from your own body (push ups or squats) to resistance bands or weights (dumbbells or a bottle of water). All of these forms of exercise if done correctly will improve your muscle strength and size.
Muscle and metabolism
Muscle has many, often-underappreciated functions within the body. Muscle tissue is the primary site for glucose (sugar) and triglyceride (fat) disposal. Less muscle means less disposal of sugar and fat and higher concentrations in the blood, this is bad news for your metabolism*. Higher concentrations of glucose and triglycerides in the blood directly increase your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Muscle loss is currently the greatest contributor to age related decline in metabolic rate (averaging 2-3% per decade). With resting metabolic rate** accounting for 65-70% of energy expenditure in sedentary individuals it’s not surprising aging populations who have less muscle mass and are less active find it easy to gain fat.
Effectively muscle is energy expensive, the more muscle mass that you have the more energy it will burn by just being there.
So how much do I need to do?
Just a few weeks of regular resistance training, 2 or 3 times a week, can increase your metabolic rate by up to 7%. Additional studies have shown an increase in resting energy expenditure for up to 3 days following a single session of resistance training.
Resistance training and Bone density
People who do not resistance train may experience 1-3% reduction in bone mineral density (BMD) every year increasing the risk of osteoporosis in the process.
Between the ages of 50 and 80, prevalence of osteoporosis increases from 2% to 50% causing more than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men to sustain an osteoporotic fracture in their lifetime – it’s a big issue. But resistance training can help!
Studies in both pre and post-menopausal women found that resistance training can prevent or reverse this BMD reduction by 1-3% per year. Evidence of increase in BMD has also been found in young men. There are fewer studies on older males, however given the evidence it is not unreasonable to assume that they also would benefit. Additionally, an increase in skeletal muscle can also protect bones from impact, provide greater control and balance which consequently reduces risk of falls and fracture too.
But it’s too late for me!
It’s never too late! Many large-scale studies carried out on people aged 20-100 have shown that regular resistance training (2-3 x week over a period of 3 months) can increase lean muscle mass by up to 1.4kg. Moreover, there were no significant differences between age groups- amazing!
One study of nursing home residents (mean age 89) performed 6 resistance exercises 2xweek for 14 weeks and on average improved strength by 60% and increased lean mass by 1.7kg. They also increased their functional independence score by 14%.
Other health benefits of resistance training
If we haven’t already sold this to you then how about improving
- Movement control
- Physical performance
- Walking speed
- Improving balance
- Improving functional independence
- Improving cardiovascular health and cholesterol
- Reducing chronic pain and symptoms of arthritis
- Maintain flexibility and balance
- Improve sleep quality and consequently reap the beautiful health benefits associated with sleeping.
- Improve general wellbeing, confidence and boost mood.
- Reduce depression and improve cognitive ability, increase self-esteem and physical self-concept.
There really aren’t any down sides to resistance training and if anything, it becomes MORE IMPORTANT as we age; and it can be so simple, if you don’t know where to start then contact your local gym or physio and ask for guidance. But for starters here are a few ideas……
* Metabolism—including resting metabolism—is a series of functions that are happening all the time. The rate at which those functions occur is your metabolic rate.
*** Resting metabolic rate – the rate at which your body burns energy when it is at complete rest.