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Train with weights as you get older

Personal Trainer Julien Bertherat.

According to a recent study by the University of Iowa, lifting weights in your 70s helps those who do so to live longer.

Researchers from the university asked 99,713 adults aged between 55 to 74 about how they exercise and then monitored their experience over ten years. What the researchers found was that lifting weights without aerobic exercise led to a lower risk of death by up to 22 per cent, while the risk of death for aerobic exercise with no weightlifting was up to 34 per cent lower (as compared with those who did neither).

Pretty impressive.

However, what is interesting from the study is that the lower risk of death was up to 47 per cent lower after aerobic exercise and lifting weights up to twice a week. It is important to note here that the researchers did not factor in the size of the weights used by those taking part in the study, but concentrated on the principle of the exercise.

According to Dr Jessica Gorzelitz, the author of the study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, “Older adults would probably benefit from weightlifting exercises.”

It is also interesting to note that educational attainment, smoking, body mass index, race and ethnicity did not significantly change the findings of the study, though the benefits of both forms of exercise were greater in women than in men.

“Our finding that mortality risk appeared to be lowest for those who participated in both types of exercise provides strong support for current recommendations to engage in both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities,” adds Gorzelitz, commenting on the findings of the study.

We already know that exercising in a gym can be sociable, which is associated with a longer, healthier life, and using weights can make a body leaner, which is also known to reduce the risk of premature death, according to research.

In the University of Iowa study, 23 per cent of those taking part reported some weightlifting activity, with 16 per cent saying they exercised with weights regularly between one to six times a week. In addition, 32 per cent of those taking part in the research were sufficiently aerobically active, either meeting (by 24 per cent) or exceeding (8 per cent) the physical activity guidelines issued by health agencies.

Adults are typically advised to undertake at least 150 weekly minutes of moderate aerobic activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (or a combination of the two).

In the course of my work, I encounter people over the age of 50 (sometimes 40) who appear reluctant to start or maintain a regular exercise programme and particularly one that involves weight training. Sometimes this comes down to concerns about the health, fitness and strength of the persona concerned, but on occasion, it can also be due to a perception that regular weight training is only for the young.

This is not the case and the above research (as well as other studies) gives evidence to the argument that exercise, as well as weight training specifically, can have a positive impact and boost strength and fitness at any age. It can also build confidence and energy levels, both of which are vital for moving forward through life.

Regular exercise can be a lifelong activity. It can also begin at any age.

The benefits of doing so are documented, as above, and are worth investing in.

Make the investment and enjoy the (lifelong) benefits.


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