- Our Town
Boomer Alert! Why weight training improves quality of life
Oops! I’ve lost 8 kilos of muscle mass since I was 30. That’s apparently when we start to lose muscle at the rate of 0.23 kilos (0.5 lbs) per year. The bad news is that the annual loss doubles after we are 50 and accelerates after 75. This condition is referred to as sarcopenia, from the Greek meaning of “poverty of flesh.”
Where does it all go?
Most of it is replaced by fat thereby contributing to the risk of developing diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, low back pain and arthritis among other unpleasant ailments. The good news is that muscle turning to fat need not happen so soon. Nope, it’s not by dieting. Studies show that with most weight loss programs 25% of the weight lost is muscle. The prescription for slowing the rate of muscle wastage is to perform regular strength training to build lean muscle (big bulky muscles are difficult to achieve even for those who want big arms and chest).
While it’s great if we had started weight training in our 20s and 30s, it’s never too late to improve our body composition. The critical age is 50 when muscle converts to fat at an accelerated rate. But, boomer alert here, we can replace fat and build muscle tone well into our 80s. But building muscle strength is another story. Studies show that this declines at an average rate of 3 percent per year after 60, and even more in our late 60s so that by our 70s it’s estimated that we have lost 20 to 40 percent of our starting strength. Again, weight training slows this decline. Working out with weights, whether barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells or just body weight, is also a great way to lose or control our weight. Because muscles are the engines of the body when we add muscle we increase our metabolism, and a higher metabolism will burn more calories. Conversely, less muscle but more body fat will lower the resting metabolism.
We know what happens here; fewer calories are burned and stored as additional fat. This cycle continues and before we know it we are 10, 15 or more kilos overweight. Not a likely prospect for good health. “But I don’t want to weight train” I hear people exclaim. “I want something easier.”
Well, one option is to walk 30 minutes each day. It’s probably the single best thing you could do for your health. A 12 year study of 1000 Harvard alumni showed that this activity lowered the risk of an early death in this group by 23%. Studies shows many benefits, for example, it reduces the risk of hip fracture by 41% in post menopausal woman. Not a bad reward for getting out and about. But our quality of life gets even better when we add strength training. It helps slow the degenerative processes associated with aging, especially muscle loss, metabolic slowdown and fat gain.
Stronger muscles improve posture and provide better support for joints and reduce the risk of injury from everyday activities such as gardening, house work, shoveling snow or other activities of daily life. It also helps us with our social activities such as golf or dancing, and in keeping up with grandchildren.
Along with a little balance and mobility training, a stronger body reduces the odds of stumbling and falling, which is an increasing risk as we get older. While some group classes contain an element of strength training, having a personal program developed by someone like myself who understands the older adults physiology (I’m one myself) will ensure that you reach your own personal goals and avoid injury. Semi-personal training (2 to 3 people) reduces the cost and keeps you motivated. Contact me if this is of interest. For group classes enquire at the The Gym on Bowen, Positively Fit or Community Recreation.
David Shadbolt is a Personal Training Specialist and an Older Adult Training Specialist. He can be contacted at 778-835-8236 or through his website www.peaksymmetry.com