This is why you should lift weights as you get older

This is why you should lift weights as you get older

If you’re not lifting weights, it’s time to start. Building muscle has been shown to improve bone density, metabolism, blood-sugar control, sleep and mental health.

An additional study adds one more benefit to that list. Resistance training also protects our hearts as we age — at least in men, according to research in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Scientists analyzed data from a long-term study of cardiovascular health among Mediterranean people. The study followed several thousand Greek participants, who returned after 10 years for more testing.

After examining the results of the 1,019 participants who were at least 45 years old at the second check-in, the new study’s authors discovered the men with the most muscle mass at the study’s start lowered their risk of later developing heart disease by as much as 81%. The team also found that men with the most muscle at baseline had a lower prevalence of other health issues related to heart disease, including obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Researchers aren’t sure why muscle’s heart-protecting benefit affects only men, but they hypothesize it may have to do with gender-based hormonal differences and the fact that fewer women developed heart disease in the Greek study. Overall, the researchers noted that men in the study were four times more likely than women to develop cardiovascular disease.

Because the study was observational, the authors can’t pinpoint exactly why or how strength training protects the heart.

“The study shows a correlation between muscle mass and reduced cardiovascular risk — it doesn’t show causation,” says Dr. Paul Silverman, a cardiologist at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. “That said, we know resistance training is an important part of an overall healthy lifestyle. Muscle metabolism is a lot higher than fat metabolism, so having muscle can help you stay leaner. Lifting weights also helps preserve the muscle we naturally lose as we get older.”

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  1. Would you please follow-up on the appropriate weights to use and the recommended exercises. Is there an optimal weight for different body types, weight, age, and gender?

  2. I’m about 70 and lift weights every day. I don’t like doing it, but I like even less the ramifications of not being in shape. I do like group exercise programs with both seniors as well as people half my age, but COVID-19 has certainly put a damper on that.

    Be careful: start slowly and work up. I had a friend with a “desk job” who when he retired took up running and literally ran himself into the grave in about two weeks. The official recommendation: Get your doctor’s advice before starting an extensive exercise routine.

  3. How old is too old to lift weights? I can’t get to the gym because of the virus, maybe this spring I’ll be able to get there.

  4. Would greatly appreciate recommended weight exercises for those 70+

  5. So there is lifting weights and then there is lifting weights. There are so many methods apart from various exercises that it is impossible to know which methods apply to findings in the study cited.
    Perhaps a good place to start would be a comment on some measure of what is enough. As it turns out, we are now told that walking for 30 minutes on most days is enough and running is not necessary. What then is enough weight lifting?

  6. I would suggest that resistance training vs weight lifting be used as it is more inclusive of exercises that tone and build muscle strength, and incorporates body weight as well as “weight lifting” as resistance. Some well known exercises include pushups and pullups etc. For those interested Parkour (look it up) practitioners utilize many creative forms of body weight resistance exercises from easy to hard to build functional fitness. I am 65 and utilize many of their exercises which help me push and pull stronger, jump higher and farther and maintain my balance, besides teaching me how to land properly to preserve joints.

  7. Ramel DeGuzmann March 23, 2022 at 10:02 am · Reply

    How do I keep from eating all day? I constantly seem to nibble all day long.

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Brigid Sweeney

Brigid Sweeney, health enews contributor, is a media relations manager for Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. Previously, she reported for Crain's Chicago Business.