Did you know that up to 80% of men and women in their 50s and older have too little muscle and too much fat? This imbalance often leads to obesity and complications like low back pain, arthritis, stroke, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, and various types of cancer. It’s just a bit horrifying, isn’t it? The good news, however, is that muscle loss is reversible at any age through resistance training. This form of exercise is especially beneficial for women over 50 because the rate of muscle loss nearly doubles after this milestone. This is where Weight Training Past 50, authored by Wayne Westcott and Thomas Baechle (former NSCA president and cofounder) can be a valuable resource. Their book explores 13 benefits of weight training, focusing on muscle building, alongside key benefits like enhanced metabolism, fat reduction, and hypertension control. It is a great guide for anyone looking for more information on strength training for women over 50 to inspire a newfound sense of confidence and empowerment in their physical abilities.
- Rebuilding Muscle. A number of studies have shown the effectiveness of moderate resistance training in restoring muscle mass in older adults, making it an important part of getting fit over fifty. Even a modestly timed routine, practiced 2 – 3 times weekly, with each session lasting 20 – 40 minutes, can aid muscle tissue regeneration in adults aged 50 to 90. According to Westcott, the majority of researched routines within some studies have led to a muscle gain of 3 – 4 pounds over a duration of 3 – 4 months.
- Revitalizing Muscle Cells. Westcott asserts that circuit-style strength training, typified by brief rest periods between consecutive exercise sessions, can improve the quantity and functionality of mitochondria (organelles found in most cells which are responsible for energy production). The encouraging outcomes from this approach have led scientists to believe that resistance training can potentially counteract declines in muscle tissue as the body changes with age.
- Reducing Fat. As we age, fat tends to build up even though dietary habits may not necessarily have changed. The good news is, some current research indicates that resistance training can help decrease the overall body fat ratio, the total amount of fat, and even the stubborn abdominal area, making exercise a great path to being over 50 and fit.
- Recharging Metabolism. Resistance training uniquely affects a person’s metabolic rate. It not only escalates energy use while exercising but also during muscle recuperation and regeneration which can extend up to three days following an exercise session.
- Improving Blood Lipid Profiles. Nearly 50% of adults in the U.S. suffer from suboptimal blood lipid levels, which amplifies their chances of developing cardiovascular disease. However, consistently engaging in strength training can yield beneficial outcomes. It can reduce triglycerides by 11% – 18%, lower LDL (harmful) cholesterol by 13% – 23%, and boost the HDL (beneficial) cholesterol by 8% – 21%.
- Reducing Resting Blood Pressure. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major contributor to the risk of heart disease, which affects approximately 30 percent of adults in the U.S today. However, according to Westcott, research demonstrates a marked decrease in resting blood pressure after engaging in strength training, be it circuit-style or traditional, for a period of two months or longer. This finding is particularly important for those questioning how to stay fit over 50, as individuals in this age group are more likely to suffer from hypertension and may benefit from strength training routines.
- Enhancing Postcoronary Performance. Resistance training can be an effective tool for older adults with a history of cardiovascular health issues. It helps to achieve and maintain a healthful body weight, promotes muscle growth and strength, and expedites the healing process following heart-related incidents. Thus, this type of exercise optimizes overall physical capabilities and nurtures a person’s confidence in their abilities, making it clear why strength training is important.
- Resisting Diabetes. According to Westcott, individuals who manage to keep their weight in check and build a significant amount of muscle strength reduce their risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Research evidence supports the fact that engaging in strength training for a few weeks can lead to balanced blood sugar levels and better insulin regulation.
- Decreasing physical discomfort. Many people dealing with lower back pain find relief through strengthening these specific muscles. Additionally, resistance training has demonstrated its effectiveness in aiding those who suffer from conditions such as fibromyalgia and arthritis.
- Increasing Bone Density. Due to changes in the body with aging, a decline in muscle strength is often accompanied by bone loss. Thankfully, engaging in strength training is known to boost both muscle and bone density. Remarkable growth in bone mineral density can be observed after practicing regular exercises for a few months. In Westcott’s view, consistent resistance training is the optimal approach to building a sturdy and resilient musculoskeletal system.
- Reversing physical frailty. Westcott emphasizes that age is no barrier to the benefits of strength training, even for those significantly over 50. He suggests that moderate bouts of exercise can help the elderly restore their physical prowess, fitness levels, and vitality. This could mean spending less time seated in a wheelchair and more engagement in activities like cycling and walking.
- Enhancing Mental Health. Westcott’s extensive research on the psychological shifts tied to routine resistance training reveals marked improvements in areas such as tension release, calmness, rejuvenation, fatigue reduction, self-perception of physicality, and depression management. His research further shows that both adults and seniors exhibit an improvement in mood stability and an increase in positive engagement, demonstrating the value of a structured regimen.
- Combating Cancer. Adult cancer patients have been found to respond positively to strength training. This activity can contribute to a range of fitness and health improvements throughout and after their treatment cycle. Such benefits include enhancements in body composition, muscle fortitude, fatigue management, and improved overall physical capacity. In particular, patients in recovery from breast cancer treatments can experience improvements in shoulder movement by engaging in a routine that focuses on weight lifting for women specifically.
All of the reasons above support the idea that regular weight training is the cornerstone of maintaining a healthy, active, fit, and joyful lifestyle as you age.