Strength Training’s Anti-Aging Benefits
Strength training, though often seen as an activity only for athletes or bodybuilders, has proven anti-aging benefits that will help keep you feeling younger (and better) longer. You don’t have to lift massive amounts of weight or have a particularly intense regimen, either: research suggests that as little as 20 minutes of a strength-training regimen can have significant, noticeable benefits for keeping you fit and healthy well into your golden years.
Offset muscle and bone weakness
Strength training’s most immediate and obvious benefit is in helping offset sarcopenia (the gradual loss of muscle mass with age) and osteoporosis (the gradual loss of bone strength). Consistent strength training, even just twice a week, has noticeable benefits to both prevent and treat both of these conditions – a 2010 study suggested that twice weekly strength and exercise training rejuvenated muscle cells’ mitochondria, and “turned back” the genetic clock of older muscles by 15 or 20 years. Strength training also helps combat the skeletal weakness that comes with age, decreasing the risk of arthritis, osteoarthritis, and damaging falls or fractures later in life. Bones and muscles are stronger when they are active, and a large part of the diminished strength that comes with age is as a result of lack of use, rather than an inherent fact of aging.
Increased energy and improved cognitive function
Strength training has also been shown to increase production of testosterone and DHEA, the hormones that affect our energy. After just 12 weeks, resistance training can significantly increase the level of free testosterone and DHEA in the body, increasing energy levels and helping offset the weariness that often comes with aging. Strength training has also been shown to help stave off the effects of dementia, improving both attention span and conflict resolution.
Cellular health and increased lifespan
Cellular health has direct links to mitochondrial health and telomere length, and research suggests that better mitochondrial health can actually jump start energy production and reverse the aging that occurs in our DNA over time. Telomeres, the chromosome endcaps which have been theorized to help determine the lifespan of an organism, split and shorten as we age for a variety of reasons. The process of telomerase, the prevention (and even reversal) of this weakening, is a byproduct of exercise, and consistent exercise only serves to amplify these benefits. So better cellular health, as a result of exercise, may actually have benefits not only for increased quality of life, but increased lifespan as well.
For many, strength training seems like an inaccessible or unimportant aspect of health. But its benefits for combating the effects of aging are clear and significant – even with only one or two sessions a week. No matter how old you are, strength training is good for both mind and body.