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Resistance Training: one of the few key ways to a long and healthy life

Updated: Nov 20

Did you know that you start losing muscle mass after 30? Or that the menopause contributes to loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia) as well as a loss of bone density and strength?

Resistance training is commonly performed with the goal to build muscle to "tone up" or "get in shape". However we now know that that resistance training is a crucial contributor to women’s health and wellbeing creating a vast range of benefits that compound as we age.

Longevity is a word in vogue at the moment with lots of people talking about how we can not only live longer but also live better and it’s something that I’m fascinated by.

Some of you may have even watched Jon Snow’s excellent documentary series “How to Live to 100” early this year. In it, he visits the Loma Linda community in California, America’s only “blue zone” town where residents have +10 years life expectancy versus the average American. He’s seen joining an over 85s resistance training class at 06:30 am with interviewees talking about how important strength training is to their way of life.

In my opinion, this is no coincidence. Resistance training is crucial to counteracting the effects of ageing both physically and cognitively and I passionately believe that this is especially true for women.

Here’s why:

As we age, muscle fibers get smaller and the number decreases. This process begins at 30 if we are not actively training and accelerates over 60.

If muscle fiber connection is weakened because fibers are never being used then eventually connection will be broken and those muscle fibers will die.

Women, in particular, are at risk from sarcopenia and osteoporosis after menopause with a reduction in estrogen contributing to a breakdown in muscle tissue whilst a loss of bone density is also common which can make us more prone to fractures that can significantly impact quality of life.

Muscles and bones are, of course, closely connected. Strong muscles provide support to the skeletal system and help protect bones whilst bones provide a framework for muscle attachment allowing muscles to generate movement.

Regular resistance training:

  • Helps type 2 muscle fibers which are most important for quality of life and maintaining an active and independent life as we age.

  • Stimulates muscle nerve connection and preserves muscle stem cell numbers.

  • Helps to slow biological ageing and to protect and strengthen our bones.

  • Gives our brains a boost, with resistance training shown to elicit “exercise-induced preservation of brain health” in older adults.

  • Helps us to achieve longer and better quality sleep, which is crucial for managing all kinds of health risks as we age.

  • Targets belly fat which is often difficult to shift and releases chemicals which have a negative effect on blood sugar levels whilst muscle cells have a positive effect and help soak up sugar from blood.

The good news is, our bodies are amazing and you can start getting the positive benefits associated with resistance training in a short space of time. One recent study showed that a regular programme of resistance training could increase muscle mass by 10% and strength by 150% in just 12 weeks.

So, if resistance and strength training is not part of your lifestyle, the best time to start incorporating it is now.

The key is consistency and remember if you are a beginner, speak to your GP first and start slowly, ideally learning how to lift weights correctly and safely with a 1-1 Personal Trainer.

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