Cambridge’s Leading personal trainers

Benefits of Strength Training For Later Life

With an ageing population and more people living longer, the number of people with chronic diseases is not slowing.

It is no secret that we generally live very sedentary lifestyles. 

Desk jobs, driving everywhere, everything at our fingertips through our phones – the need to get up and move about for everyday life has decreased. 

Cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes are the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in older adults (65+ years old), as much research suggests. 

Having too little muscle and too much body fat contributes to the likelihood of experiencing issues with osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and low back pain. 

Lucky for us all, there is a mountain of evidence which convincingly shows that muscle loss can be reversed through exercise interventions combining resistance training and aerobic exercise. 

The Barn Bootcamp combines resistance training with aerobic conditioning, with a coach on hand to ensure you are doing the right exercises and the right way! 

Here are six benefits of strength training in later life:

1. Rebuilding Muscle

‘It’s too late to start now. I’m past it.’

We’ve had too many conversations with people about them feeling as though they are ‘past’ it with their ability to exercise for their health. 

Research shows that 20-40 minutes of resistance training, two to three times per week, can rebuild muscle tissue in those ages 50-90. 

This level of training will vary from person to person, with factors such as training experience, current health condition and mobility restrictions being key factors. 

However, no matter the circumstance, as little as 20 minutes of movement twice a week can improve overall health and reduce the chances of experiencing those chronic health conditions. 

It is never too late. 

2. Positive Impact on Neurological Pathways

Exercise can have a wide range of benefits on our brain health, which can help preserve neuronal functions (neurological pathways) and helps protect us against ageing-associated loss of cognition.

Exercise increases blood flow and oxygen distribution, which are vital for healthy organs.

Studies show it improves learning capabilities, memory and attention span, directly correlating exercise and better cognitive function. 

The Alzheimer’s Society UK believes that regular exercise can reduce the risk of developing dementia by around 30%. 

3. Changes to Metabolism

When we talk about metabolism, people often only think about how fast your body burns calories – but this is your metabolic rate.

Metabolism is the process your body goes through to digest and absorb nutrients from your food. 

When we metabolise food, the sugar and fat levels in our blood will rise and then fall. 

Some foods result in more significant rises that last longer, which is very individual and is impacted by the type of food you eat. 

According to research, our total daily energy expenditure goes through four distinct phases. 

Phase 1: 0-1 years of age, metabolic rate accelerated to 50% above the adult rate

Phase 2: 1-20 years of age, metabolic rate slows by approximately 3% each year

Phase 3: 20-60 years of age, metabolic rate holds steady

Phase 4: 60+ years, metabolic rate declines by up to 1% each year 

So whilst it is true that our metabolic rate declines with age, it is later than most people think.

However, a significant contributing factor to your metabolic rate is your body’s fat-free mass. 

If your fat-free mass changes, then the energy you burn at rest will also change. 

The less fat-free mass, the less energy we burn whilst simply doing nothing. 

As we age, our body composition tends to change, with muscle mass depleting and the amount of energy we burn dropping unless we do something about it!

We know that resistance training increases muscle mass and bone density, which becomes even more critical as we age and this decline occurs. 

Engaging in regular exercise can slow the rate at which our metabolic rate decreases. 

4. Reduced Resting Blood Pressure

Hypertension (high blood pressure) rarely has noticeable symptoms but increases your chances of experiencing a heart attack or stroke in later life. 

Although it is not clear, some health-related factors that can contribute to the chances of high blood pressure are:

  • Being overweight
  • Overeating salt and not enough fruit and vegetables
  • Not doing enough exercise
  • Consuming too much alcohol or caffeine
  • Smoking 
  • Not getting enough quality sleep

Being active and engaging in regular activity can lower blood pressure by keeping your heart and blood vessels strong and healthy.

Monitoring your salt intake and reducing alcohol consumption have also been linked with lower blood pressure.

Make sure you aim for those 5+ fruits and veggies daily and eat a fibre-rich diet to help keep blood pressure low. 

There is research showing that exercise can reduce insomnia. 

We know that engaging in moderate aerobic exercise increases the amount of deep sleep we get. There the body and brain have a chance to recover and rejuvenate. 

Getting enough good quality sleep helps stabilise our mood and can result in more clarity in decision-making as cognitive function is improved.

5. Improving Blood Lipid Profiles

Lipids are fat-like substances found in our blood, and we need a certain amount for our bodies to work as usual. 

Excessive amounts of lipids in our blood can cause fat deposits in our arteries, increasing the chance of heart disease. 

Cholesterol is the primary lipid, and it is made up of different parts:

LDL cholesterol – the primary lipid that causes a damaging build-up in the arteries

HDL cholesterol – a ‘good’ type of cholesterol that helps prevent the build-up of fatty deposits in the arteries

Triglyceride – another lipid that may increase the risk of heart disease 

Studies show that regular aerobic exercise, with exercise time, volume and intensity, affects blood lipid levels, especially HDL, which is the most sensitive to exercise.

One way to reduce LDL and Triglyceride levels in the blood is to exercise regularly. 

6. Strengthening Muscle Cells and Reduce Frailty 

Research has shown that resistance training, where short rest is had after successive exercise, can increase mitochondrial content and capacity. 

Mitochondria play an essential role in generating ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), which is the primary energy source for critical biological functions such as muscle contractions, protein synthesis and nerve impulse transmission. 

Muscle mass decreases as we age, but resistance training can help prevent frailty and reduce the need to sit and use walking aids. 

Some research suggests that strengthening muscle cells can ‘reverse’ the impact that ageing has on our bodies. However, this has been debated. 

All research agrees that the longer we engage in physical activity, the more benefit it has on our body as we age, helping to slow the process down and reduce the chances of chronic illnesses.

Exercise has clear physical health benefits throughout all stages of our life.

It is never ‘too late’ to engage in more activity and see these benefits! 

Of course, the research shows that the earlier we do it, the better, but we can still start at whichever point we are currently at. 

Something is better than nothing.

Late is better than never. 

Need help with the proper exercise routine for you? Click ‘Enquire Now’ to speak with a member of our team. 

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