Pumping Iron Is Key for Healthy Aging. Here's How to Start

how to, pumping iron is key for healthy aging. here's how to start

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Staying active as you age can help you feel better by reducing stress and giving you more energy. It can also ward off health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, and reduce the likelihood of incurring chronic illnesses. If you want to become more active, lifting weights is one of the best ways to do this.

For those new to using weights or need a refresher, this guide can help you chart the right course. We’ll cover how weightlifting can assist healthy aging and tips for getting started.

Is weightlifting the secret to reverse aging?

Here are some of the ways weightlifting can help your body stay healthy as you age:

how to, pumping iron is key for healthy aging. here's how to start

Improved muscle mass and strength

As you age, your body experiences sarcopenia. This is where you lose muscle mass and strength. You can start to experience this as early as your 30s, and you can lose up to 50% of your muscle mass by the time you’re in your 80s. By incorporating weightlifting into your exercise routine, it allows your body to build strength and endurance.

Over time, this can not only slow down the impact of sarcopenia but reverse it. When you lift weights, your body experiences hypertrophy, which is where your muscles grow.

Why do they grow when you lift weights? When you place demand on your muscles through lifting, it creates small tears. That’s intended as these tears heal creating larger, stronger and more resilient muscles.

Enhanced bone health and density

Sergi Putsov, a professional weightlifter and head of Sports Science for the Torokhtiy weightlifting team, says, “Since weightlifting puts stress on your bones, stimulating them to become stronger and denser, it plays a crucial role in preventing conditions such as osteoporosis and lowering the risk of fractures. People who consistently engage in weightlifting have better bone density, crucial to promoting long-term bone health. It improves joint flexibility and supports functional movement patterns as you age.”

how to, pumping iron is key for healthy aging. here's how to start

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Better metabolic health and weight management

Lifting weights regularly can also ward off chronic conditions like diabetes while helping you stay at a healthy weight. Chris Pruitt, a certified personal trainer and CEO of WorkoutHealthy.com says, “Lifting weights improves insulin sensitivity and helps in managing blood sugar levels, which is crucial for preventing type 2 diabetes.”

How this works is when you lift weights, it can boost insulin sensitivity the same way running does. In turn, your body burns glucose, improving your body’s handling of insulin. That’s why it isn’t surprising to find your blood glucose level decreasing when you exercise.

Increased mobility and flexibility 

As your muscles become stronger, you’ll experience more range in motion. This is vital in that you’ll feel better, have fewer aches, and have more flexibility in your joints. Putsov adds, “Consistent weightlifting stimulates muscle growth and helps to improve your muscle quality. This enhances mobility and physical function and reduces the risk of falls and injuries commonly associated with aging.”

Moreover, by having stronger muscles, your body can recover quicker from injuries. Muscles promote blood flow, making it easier for your body to transport nutrients and reduce healing times.

Mental health benefits and cognitive function 

When you exercise, your body produces endorphins. Endorphins not only can give you a sense of euphoria, they also reduce pain in your body. As you exercise more regularly, you’ll notice you have more energy, you’ll sleep better and might not be as susceptible to stress.

In addition, pumping iron can improve your cognitive function too. When you exercise, your muscles send signals, also known as myokines, that impact your brain. Studies show that as these enter the brain, they create better immune balance and a reduction in inflammation. By having a reduction in inflammation markers, it makes you less susceptible to diseases impacting the brain.

Improved heart function 

Your heart craves exercise, here’s why: When you lift weights or run, it makes it easier for your muscles to pull oxygen out of the blood. In turn, your heart doesn’t have to pump as much blood from the muscles. It also reduces the presence of stress hormones. When these are present, they can cause your heart to pump more, placing more stress on it.

On top of this, exercise can lower your heart rate and your blood pressure. So get to pumping weights, as it can lessen the load your heart has to undertake.

How to get started with weightlifting for healthy aging 

Before introducing weightlifting into your exercise routine, here are a few things to consider:

Consult with your doctor

If you’ve had preexisting conditions or worry if lifting weights is right for you, it’s wise to consult with your doctor before hitting the gym. They’ll know your health history, medications, previous injuries and risk factors. By using this information, it can help you determine if lifting weights is right for you.

Understand the importance of proper form and technique 

“It is important to mention that starting a weightlifting routine, especially later in life, requires proper guidance and technique,” Putsov said. “Consult a certified professional trainer or fitness coach who can create a tailored program based on your goals, abilities and health. Proper form and technique are crucial to preventing body injuries and maximizing the effectiveness of your weightlifting routine.”

how to, pumping iron is key for healthy aging. here's how to start

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If you’re concerned about paying for personal training, there are ways around this. Some gyms offer a free session when you sign up for a membership. This is invaluable as you can learn techniques you can use for future lifts. Many YMCAs also have classes where you can learn more about weight lifting exercises.

Gradually progress to avoiding injury  

Even if you lifted weights in the past, it’s still important to start with lighter weights and focus more on technique. As your muscles begin to strengthen, gradually increase weight, while also listening to your body. It’s OK to feel a little resistance when you graduate to larger weights. However, if you’re in severe pain after a session and/or it impedes your ability to do other things, then you’re overdoing it.

This is why it’s ideal to incorporate a buddy system when lifting weights. For one, it’s best to do certain exercises like bench presses or squats without one. Two, they can provide another eye while you exercise to ensure your weight isn’t too heavy to impact technique.

Incorporate other forms of exercise for a balanced routine

Your body receives the full benefits of lifting weights when you combine it with other exercise. Depending on your health conditions, this can include hiking, running or biking. The key is that when you balance weightlifting with other forms of exercise, you’re targeting other muscles you might not while lifting weights. On top of this, you’re gaining endurance, strengthening your heart and increasing flexibility.

Pruitt also recommends, “Incorporating a balanced diet rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals can enhance the effects of weightlifting, aiding in muscle recovery and growth.” Consult with a personal trainer, your physician or a nutritionist on which foods you should incorporate into your diet.

Too long, didn’t read 

Weight lifting can reverse aging in many ways. It improves your muscle mass and flexibility, helping you to feel better. It also increases bone density, lowering your risk of fractures. Pumping weights is also a surefire way to keep your heart healthy by reducing stress hormones. And it can improve cognitive function by reducing inflammation. Overall, pumping iron can help you feel better and can reverse many effects that come with aging.

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