Is it Time for Weight Training in your Life?

by  Linda Manwarren, Chair Wellness Committee

The World Health Organization defines healthy aging as “the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables wellbeing in older age.” Wellbeing is not simply being free of disease or health conditions. Many older adults have one or more health conditions that, when well controlled, have little influence on their wellbeing. When it comes to aging, we have all heard the old adage “it sure beats the alternative!” But how much control do we have over how we age? I think quite a lot. I cannot deny the reality of aging, but not everyone should expect to feel old. If you are sedentary, your body becomes better at NOT moving, making you stiff and sore.

Functional ability refers to the ability to perform tasks and activities that people find necessary, or desirable, in their lives. As one ages, loss of muscle and strength, without intervention, can lead to reduced function and loss of independence. I recently enrolled in a course called Strength Training 101. My instructor posited that if there is a fountain of youth, strength training may well be the route to it. In addition to the actual exercises, this course led me through some research on the topic.

In March 2022, a thesis by Neil J Meigh of Bond University in Australia showed that older adults, with no strength training experience, can train safely with kettlebells. Kettlebell training resulted in clinically significant improvements in grip strength, and significant improvements in cardiovascular capacity, muscular strength and endurance, functional capacity, and body composition. In a recent trial in Brisbane, scientists found weight training can prevent bone fractures in people suffering from osteoporosis. Here is a link to a short video about this study.

According to my instructor, Kathy Dodd, there are many benefits to weight training. These six points below provide some insight into the benefits.

  1. Muscle tone. After age 30, women lose 3-8% of their muscle mass every decade and the rate and speed at which this happens accelerates after 50. Loss of muscle mass impacts metabolism and leads to decreased activity and increased risk of injury and frailty.
  2. Loss of strength. Can lead to balance issues, impaired mobility, and impaired functionality in your day-to-day life.
  3. Bone Density. As we age, we become more and more at risk for osteoporosis. Strength training can reverse this trend.
  4. Insulin sensitivity. If you are struggling with metabolic issues, strength training has been shown to help.
  5. Injury prevention. If you like to do other sports or forms of exercise, strength training helps prevent injuries during these activities and during life in general.
  6. Mental Health. A summary of studies showed positive outcomes for anxiety, pain, cognition, depression, and more.

“What you do today can improve all your tomorrows.” Ralph Marston