Strength Training Habits That Slow Aging, According to Science – Eat This, Not That

If you want to stop aging and embrace life to the fullest, one of the best gifts you can give your body is a good old-fashioned, healthy weight training regimen. There are many proven ways this form of exercise benefits your health, and we’re here to share strength training habits that slow aging according to science. Read on to learn more, then don’t miss the 6 best exercises for strong, toned arms in 2022, says the trainer.

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Incorporating strength training into your routine will add so much good to your overall well-being. Not only will you maintain muscle mass, but you’ll also improve your mobility, keep your weight under control, and add more years of good health to your life. By performing strength training two to three days each week, you will also maintain bone density and reduce your chances of developing osteoporosis. Building muscle can help reduce depression, improve sleep and reduce the risk of disease.

And the best part of strength training? You don’t have to lift 300 pounds to reap the amazing benefits. Now let’s dive deeper into the strength training habits that science says slows down aging.

Related: Blameless Ways to Live an Incredibly Healthy Lifestyle, Says Science

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As you age, you begin to lose muscle mass and strength. Compromised mobility is associated with chronic disease, falls, fractures and even early death. Unless you step up your fitness game, your performance may begin to decline more and more each year. You can put yourself at risk of developing sarcopenia, which usually occurs between the ages of 65 and 70. This chronic condition results in fatigue, weakness, low energy, and impaired walking and stair climbing.

It’s very worrying to have a negative impact on your mobility, but research shows that 30% of adults aged 70 and over have difficulty walking, climbing stairs and getting up from a sitting position, and it’s wise to be proactive. Eric Shiroma, Sc.D., an NIA scientist, explains, “As we age, there are inevitable functional and biological limitations that can limit exercise endurance, maximal strength, and fitness,” adding, “Some of these limitations may be slowed by an active lifestyle that includes strength training.”

an elderly couple doing yoga, demonstrating the anti-aging strength training habits
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Okay, now that you know the many negatives that come from inactivity, let’s discuss the many beneficial strength training habits that slow down aging. It’s not too late to slow down your clock, say no to frailty, and set yourself up for a much more active and better quality of life.

According to the National Institute on Aging, there are many ways to strength train, including using free weights or machines, resistance bands or medicine balls, or by performing weight-bearing movements such as squats, push-ups, or yoga. Resistance training requires your muscles to contract and lift something against the pull of gravity. The more you exercise, the more muscle you will build.

Related: What Science Says About Exercise Habits That Slow Aging

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NIA-supported scientist Roger A. Fielding, Ph.D., associate director of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University outside Boston, has studied older adults and the benefits of exercise. He and his colleagues have found that the best combination for aging adults is resistance training and walking (via the National Institute on Aging).

Fielding and his team came to this conclusion by observing sessions conducted at Tufts University, gyms and local senior centers. The ultimate goal of each session is for participants to find the appropriate weights to work with for their personal body weight – not to become an impressive weightlifter or achieve an incredibly muscular physique. In addition, Fielding’s sessions inspire relationships within groups, adding positivity and fitness throughout. (Plus, research shows that maintaining a healthy social life can help extend your life!)

mature woman doing lunges while walking with dumbbells get lean body after 50
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“When you train for resistance or strength training, very important chains of molecules that transmit signals between cells are affected, and these changes remain in the body for hours after training, building a cumulative positive effect.” Even a low-intensity strength and walking program has significant benefits,” says Fielding. And he practices what he preaches, adding, “I’ve always run three or four times a week, but about three years ago I started making strength training part of my routine and I feel stronger. My goal is to be able to do things I enjoy, including downhill skiing, as long as I can, and the best way to do that is to try to stay active.”

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There is another benefit of strength training that you should not overlook. Strength training combined with a healthy diet can be very helpful in managing obesity, says scientist Dennis T. Villarreal, MD, professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston (via the National Institute on Aging). This dynamic duo is even more effective than simply following a diet or doing aerobic exercise alone. Villareal points out, “About a third of the elderly are obese, and this number is rapidly increasing.”

Obesity requires extra muscle mass to move the extra body weight. Villareal goes on to explain, “Resistance training is the most important component because it builds muscle and reduces muscle loss. As the relationship between body mass and muscle becomes more positive, participants lose more fat than they lose muscle, so relative sarcopenia improves significantly. Combining the two types of exercise had an additive effect, so they were better together than separately.”

mature woman doing push-ups demonstrating anti-aging strength training habits
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It may not be fun to hear, but as you age, your body doesn’t respond as well to exercise as it did when you were younger. Don’t compare yourself to someone younger.

“We all need to think about how to build a strong muscle base to prepare for the loss of muscle and strength we’ll experience as we age,” suggests Dr. Barb Nicklas, professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine, Wake School of Medicine of Forrest University (via the National Institute on Aging). Niklas adds: “A 60-year-old is very different from an 80-year-old. We need to be careful about lumping all older people into the same category. Aging starts at birth and throughout our lives, exercising to prevent disease and disability is very important. Training for movement, strength and balance is important at any age, but we need to adjust our expectations.”

Fielding explains that it’s important to just do what works for you, noting that some may prefer group fitness, while others like solo exercise routines. Whichever you prefer, he notes that setting “realistic goals” is critical. “A good goal is about 150 minutes a week of moderate-level exercise, but you see benefits even at lower levels than that. Older people should try to get strength training into the mix one to two times a week,” says Fielding.

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