How weight-lifting can keep you young

 

One of the secrets to a longer life involves steel, rubber or your bodyweight.

One of the secrets to a longer life involves steel, rubber or your bodyweight. The steel is in the form of dumbbells or barbells, and rubber is what resistance bands or stability balls are made of. No equipment handy? No worries, because exercises such as pushups, squats, planks and lunges, exercises that you can do anywhere, all build muscle.

    New research all points toward strength training as a key factor in longevity and an extended life, and you need to lift or push weight to build muscle. Biking, running, walking and moving more are all important for cardiovascular health, but if you’re not hitting the weights, now is a good time to start a program. Strength training, or resistance training, is the use of progressive resistance exercises to increase your ability to exert or resist force.

    Starting as young as 7, when the nervous system is almost completely mature, strength training can lay down a lifelong regime that promotes increased bone density and muscle mass and decreased age-related body fat. By our early 40s, most adults achieve peak muscle mass, but after that point, a gradual decline begins. People typically lose 8 percent or more of lean muscle each decade, a process that accelerates significantly after age 70. However, the good news is that you can become stronger at any age. But can lifting weights keep you young?

There is a clear connection between strength training and a longer life, says Dr. Jennifer Kraschnewski, an assistant professor of medicine and public health sciences at Penn State College of Medicine. A recent study she led found that seniors who did strength training two times a week were 46 percent less likely to die from any cause. They were 41 percent less likely to die from heart disease and 19 percent less likely to die from cancer. The research was published in the journal Preventive Medicine. No one is immune from any unwanted condition, but consider this: If you suffer from obesity, diabetes, heart disease or arthritis, the decrease in strength is significant. What this means is that even if you think your muscle mass is adequate, if you have any of these underlying medical conditions, your strength is much less than someone without them, says Judith Wurtman, Ph.D., founder of a Harvard University hospital weight-loss facility. Adding resistance training also improves insulin sensitivity, improves cholesterol numbers and revs up your metabolic rate—more reasons to take action.

    I’ve worked with many older clients who say their balance is terrible, but it’s more that their legs are weak. On average, we have a genetically determined amount of both slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers in muscle. As we age, our fast-twitch muscles shrink in size and number, as does the speed of transmission of impulses from the brain to the working muscles. Are your legs really as strong as you think? Consider this: Decreased leg strength, not dementia, is the biggest predictor of loss of independence in older adults.

    For beginners, the most important aspect of strength training is to find a program you can do consistently. Essentially, aim to use eight to 10 large muscle group exercises, perhaps starting with the legs. Go slow and perform the exercises with good form. For trained individuals, new studies suggest that for both men and women, if you want to get stronger, exercise with heavier loads. Keep your program progressive and varied, and don’t keep it a secret that you’re getting younger every day.

Published in the Idaho Mountain Express 2/10/2017

We Can Be Better-How Stress on our Long Bones is Good for Us

DSC03362Modern man may not be the hottest athlete in history. Some prehistoric Australian aboriginals could possibly have outrun Usain Bolt’s 100- and 200-meter world record. With modern training, spiked shoes and rubberized tracks, it is possible that aboriginal hunters might have reached speeds of 45 kilometers an hour chasing an animal. Anthropologist Peter McAllister, in his book “Manthropology; The Science of the Inadequate Modern Male,” believes our ancestors could most probably have outrun us, and opens his book saying to his male readers, “No ifs, no buts—as a class we are in fact the sorriest cohort of masculine Homo sapiens to ever walk the planet.” Ouch.

McAllister believes our predecessors were better at the basic Olympic athletics of running, jumping and throwing. His examples describe Roman legions completing more than one and a half marathons a day carrying more than half their body weight in equipment. The 26.2-mile marathon that thousands now participate in is not a strange genetic marvel, but proof of our ancient, inherited endurance capacity, dating back to the fabled Greek foot soldier, Pheidippides. We were great runners, millennia before these great armies and men, when primitive humans left the forests to seek out and hunt for food in the open plains. They had a crucial functional advantage—the ability to run long and fast to tire their prey.

What happened? Have we become a slovenly lot? In the United States, we spend a large part of our day sitting: driving to work, sitting at a desk at work, sitting for lunch, playing Nintendo, texting, sitting at the computer or watching television. I’m not suggesting that we give up all our modern conveniences and run barefoot in the mud or sharpen a spear to catch dinner. But research clearly shows that a lot of us have become sedentary.

Stresses and loads on our long bones are good for us. Dr. Walter Bortz, clinical associate professor at Stanford University, writes in “We Live Too Short and Die Too Long” that “the robustness of any bone is in direct proportion to the physical demands applied to the bone. Use it or lose it.”

The same holds true for incorporating as much moving as possible wherever and whenever possible during the day. New research shows that when rats are not allowed to stand, there is a large drop in lipoprotein lipase, the enzyme in the legs that captures fat out of the blood to be used by the body as fuel. Blood triglycerides soar, elevating the risk for cardiovascular disease.

If you do spend a good part of the day sitting, make some small changes—stand up and walk around more often, at least once every 30 minutes. At work, get up for some water or walk to a coworker’s desk rather than e-mail. Go for a fast-tempo, 10-minute walk break. At home, watching television, do some easy squats or curl-ups during commercial breaks or run up or down stairs for a bathroom break. Stand on one leg for one minute while you cook, or brush your teeth.

Above all, keep working out regularly. Make our ancestors proud.

Connie Aronson is a health and fitness specialist and personal trainer based in Ketchum.
Published November 13 2009 in the Idaho Mountain Express.

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