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

Meal Timing, Protein and Conditioning

If you compete or enjoy working out, eating right helps you train harder, delays the onset of muscle fatigue, and aids in recovery from a workout.

If you compete or simply enjoy working out, eating right helps you train harder, delays the onset of muscle fatigue and aids in recovering from a workout. Eating proper foods doesn’t have to be complicated or rigid, and certainly no one approach fits everyone. Your body needs carbohydrates, protein, fat, minerals and fluid to fuel it for exercise. Eating right helps your body adapt to workouts, improves body composition and strength, enhances concentration, helps maintain a healthy immune system and reduces the chance of injury. The timing of meals and snacks is equally important. At a recent American College of Sports Medicine meeting, Nanna Meyer, Ph.D., and dietician at the University of Colorado and United States Olympic Committee at Colorado Springs, told an audience, “Don’t bother lifting if you haven’t eaten breakfast.” Current research recommends Greek yogurt with some fruit and nuts, oatmeal cooked with milk, cereals or a carbohydrate sports bar pre-exercise, with an emphasis on protein, like yogurt, chocolate milk, recovery mix or a bar containing some protein as soon as possible after training.

Are you getting enough protein?

Recently, research has demonstrated that having some protein before and immediately post-workout results in greater strength gains and muscle repair. Nancy Rodriguez, Ph.D., R.D., director of sports nutrition programs at the University of Connecticut, notes that increased protein, greater than the dietary allowance but within the recommended range, helps reduce body fat, maintains muscle mass and increases satiety—all positive weight management outcomes. Post-workout, research suggests about 15-25 grams of protein, found in milk (eight grams of protein per cup), Greek yogurt (15-20 grams of protein per cup) or a carbohydrate/protein mix, for example.

We also snack a lot less if we get enough protein. According to Dr. Alison Gosby, in the online journal PLoSONE, “Humans have a particularly strong appetite for protein, and when the proportion of protein in the diet is low, this appetite can drive excess energy intake. Our findings have considerable implications for bodyweight management in the current nutritional environment, where foods rich in fat and carbohydrate are cheap, palatable and available to an extent unprecedented in our history.”

It’s always a good idea to talk to a registered dietician for your specific needs. For example, the Soya Granules by Fearn is recommended for those who are lactose-intolerant. Remember also that 15 minutes to an hour after a hard workout lasting more than an hour, nutrient-rich snacks help replace carbohydrates, sodium and potassium. Less time than that, if you’re watching your weight, water is a good choice. Whether you’re training hard, or just enjoy being active, make good food choices for optimal energy and improved performance.

Connie Aronson is an American College of Sports Medicine Health & Fitness specialist at the YMCA in Ketchum.