Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Strength Training: A Fountain of Youth?

Like it or not, every one of us is getting older, day by day. Both fitness exercisers and athletes alike commonly wonder how aging impacts performance—and what they can do to retain youthful fitness. Here are six facts gathered from a workshop (www.sportsnutritionworkshop.com) presented by Dr. William Evans, an exercise physiologist and expert on aging, muscles, and protein. Perhaps the information can help you chart a healthy course into 2014 and beyond.

1. The average person loses about 1% of their fitness per year. Aerobic capacity goes down, particularly after age 60. Staying active helps maintain a slighter higher ability to uptake oxygen than a non-athlete, but the rate of loss is the same.

2 We lose muscle as we age, starting as young as age 20, with a steady decline year after year. To treat this age-related loss of muscle, you need to lift weights or do other forms of resistance exercise. Yet, even strong athletes still lose some muscle with aging.

3. Body fat secretes adipokines (hormones) that have negative effects on muscle strength and contributes to increased inflammation, particularly after ages 60 to 70. Inflammation leads to heart disease and diabetes. Hence, fatness can be a powerful predictor of disability in people ages 50 to 75. Stay lean!

4. Muscle loss is the key reason why older people become frail and end up in nursing homes. When they stop exercising, they experience a steep drop in strength. The good news is they can do something about frailty: lift weights! In only12 weeks, 60- to 70-year-old men regained the fitness they had lost over 15 years. 

5.  Most strength gains occur in the first 3 months of starting a lifting program due to early neuro-muscular changes. The nervous system learns how to recruit muscles more efficiently and this stimulates more muscle cells.

6. Strength training helps prevent bone loss. In a year-long study with post-menopausal women, all of the women who lifted weights improved their bone health. Those who did not lift weights lost ~2% bone density in one year. Exercise is better than osteoporosis drugs—plus, you’ll get stronger! 

Here’s to good healthy and activity so you can enjoy “the golden years” sooner or later.

Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD
Sports nutrition counselor, consultant, speaker

www.sportsnutritionworkshop.com (Philly 1/24; Pitt. 2/7; online 24-7)
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