Sheldon’s Corner: Does Lifting Weights Help You Live Longer?
The key to a long life may not be in a secret routine or genetics, but could instead be hiding in the gym. As it turns out, lifting heavy weights regularly as a young adult and as you get older can reduce your risk of a premature death. If you’re already lifting weights, it may be in your best interest to continue for as long as possible. If you’re not lifting weights, you might want to start.
In a study done by the Penn State College of Medicine, researchers tracked people who were aged 65 or older for fifteen years to analyze how their exercise habits affected their general health and lifespan. During this study, almost one-third of the participants passed away. Here is where it gets exciting. Ten percent of the participants regularly weight trained, and of those few participants, 46 percent of them were less likely to die than the other ninety percent who didn’t do any training at all.
It’s natural to assume that people who work out are just in better shape in general than the other participants at the beginning of the study, but even after adjusting for chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, BMI, and other lifestyle activities like smoking and drinking, weight lifting still gave participants a reduced risk of death rate by 19 percent.
In addition to helping you live longer, weightlifting and exercise, in general, can greatly improve your quality of life as you get older. Weight lifting has been linked to increasing bone density, improve balance, increase stamina, and above all strengthen the muscles that weaken over time. With all of these factors improved, the chances of a fall or accident being forever life altering or a chance at causing disability drastically go down.
Additional benefits of weightlifting include an ease of finishing simple tasks. As we age, it may get harder to do the things we’ve loved for years or to even climb a flight of stairs. Regular resistance training allows the body to handle these tasks without causing it to become an event. Strength training will also stop your body from accumulating fat, as lean muscle burns more calories and prevents fat build up. Connective tissue and tendons will also benefit from the extra training, eventually reducing the risk of injury and allowing more flexibility. After your muscles are strengthened, the constant pain involved with aging should go away or decrease greatly with time.
Weight lifting can also reduce the risk of heart disease and other heart-related ailments. After a 45 minute workout, your blood pressure can be lowered by up to twenty percent. Strength training has also been linked to regulating your blood sugar, and ultimately lowering your chance of getting diabetes. If you already have diabetes, strength training will help you keep it in check.
One thing that people seem to ignore when it comes to weight lifting, is the effect that it can have on your psychological well-being. Watching your body become a shell of what it once was, and feeling the effects of neglect on your body as you try to do something as simple as lift a jug of water can have very negative effects on your self-esteem. Getting your body back into shape and starting to look and feel like a person who can still accomplish great things can make you feel like a new person. You might even eventually be able to fit in your old clothes that you haven’t seen since your 20s. A boosted self-esteem will allow you to try new things and continue to make hard decisions without it taking too much of a toll on you. You may even feel inspired to start a new career or meet a new partner after achieving a new body. Having a healthy level of confidence is key in elevating your mood and enjoying your life without having to turn to drugs or other methods of coping.
Most people start lifting weights at a young age, but if you’re older it is never too late to start. Weightlifting can be safe at any age if done correctly, but if you are indeed starting at an older age you may want to consult a doctor and trainer before starting. Exercise-related injuries may make your existing problems worse than they already are and your body will not heal at the same rate it did when you were younger. Do not feel discouraged, though, as just working out a few times a week will have you feeling better than you have in years and the envy of your peers. Eventually, you may be able to play a sport that you used to enjoy again. Last year, a 100-year old woman ran the 100-meter dash. If she can still be active after 100 years of life, there is no reason that you cannot do the same.
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