Live better through weightlifting

By Gregory Owens Sr

This blog is an expansion of knowledge about physical longevity through regular exercise and weightlifting training. As life expectancy continues to increase, so does the need to understand ways to improve your quality of life and vitality.

Several months ago while weightlifting, I asked a friend how long he thought we could continue to lift heavy weights at an advanced age. His answer was profound and served as motivation for me to continue my weightlifting training.

He believed that we could train into our late years of life with proper rest, nutrition, and serious injury avoidance.

Bottom-line is your exercise performance is a better predictor of longevity than your chronological age. It is often said that age is simply a number, and it’s not how old you are, it’s how old you feel.

Indeed age is one of the most reliable risk factors for death: the older you are, your chances of dying becomes greater. But studies are showing that your physiological health is an even better predictor for longevity. If you want to live longer then exercise more.

Weightlifting may very well be the hidden fountain of youth for many people who want to get off the couch and feel better about themselves. The benefits of weightlifting are many no matter what period in life you get started.

Why Lift Weights?
Many older individuals dismiss weightlifting (also called resistance training) as an activity predominantly for the young or the vain. Nevertheless, weightlifting is the only type of exercise that can substantially slow, and even reverse, the declines in muscle mass, bone density, and strength that were once considered inevitable consequences of growing older.

Unlike aerobic, or other endurance training, which improve cardiovascular fitness and require moving large muscle groups hundreds of times against gravity, weights provide so much resistance that muscles gain strength from only a few movements. Resistance is usually provided by free weights or machines, but individuals can also get stronger by exercising in water.

Here are some tips and tricks for getting the most out of weightlifting in your prime or past your prime.

Create a weightlifting regime that allows you to train 3-4 times a week to condition all of the major muscle groups — legs, arms, chest, shoulders, and most importantly the core/trunk.

Having strong core/trunk muscles makes it easier to do most physical activities. Weak core muscles can lead to more fatigue, less endurance, poor posture, lower back pain, and muscle injuries.

The goal is to lift a weight that’s heavy enough to achieve 8 to 12 repetitions per set before the muscles become fatigued.

Pain vs. Discomfort When Weight Lifting
Soreness the next day is completely normally, despite the fact that you shouldn’t experience pain while lifting weights. If you do, stop lifting because something is causing that pain. Most believe that as muscles are challenged by the resistance of weight, some of their tissue breaks down; then as the muscles heal, they gradually increase in strength and size. Lift weights until your muscles are fatigued, common sense will dictate when it’s time to stop. I believe if you aren’t tired after weight training you probably haven’t trained hard enough.

If you feel joint or nerve pain, or are putting a tremendous amount of strain on any part of the body, you’re probably going overboard and can harm yourself. Because strains, sprains, and tissue damage can take weeks or even months to heal, preventing injury should be your top priority, particularly the older you get.

Many older people who have been inactive but desire to start working out may think that a pair of walking shoes is a wiser investment than a set of weights, the opposite may actually be true. People who have been sedentary for long periods are at high risk for falls because their muscle tone is weak, flexibility is often limited, and balance may be precarious. So do not underestimate your ability to lift weights and the benefits you might gain.

To reduce the risk of falls and injury, older people who haven’t recently been active should begin by strengthening their legs, arms, and core muscles with 3-4 weeks of weight training 3-4 times a week before engaging in other strenuous aerobics.

How Often Should You Lift Weights?
Because aerobic and strength training are both important for health, it is recommended that adults do both on a regular basis; 20 to 60 minutes of aerobic activity is advised 3 to 5 days a week and weight training should be done for 20 to 30 minutes 2 to 3 times a week. The guidelines also suggest that people perform stretching exercises — which increase the range of motion, or amount of movement, of joints — a minimum of 2 to 3 times a week.

Weight Lifting Benefits
Strength training through weightlifting adds more weight to the skeleton by building muscle; this stimulates the bones to strengthen and grow to bear the heavier load on the muscles. Afterwhich, much of this gain in muscle can be maintained through weight-bearing endurance activities such as brisk walking, stair climbing, swimming  and aerobics.

No doubt that weightlifting can also help older people live independently by giving them the strength they need to perform everyday tasks. A good weightlifting program can also help people sleep better and can improve the mood of mildly to moderately depressed individuals.