Why Weightlifting is Essential for Healthy Aging

By Mind Alive

Aging. A process that is constantly underway. I know it. And you know it. Yet, so many people go about their lives acting as if they will never grow old. 

It doesn’t have to be some scary boogieman off in the distance though. There are lifestyle changes that everyone, no matter their age, could start today to counteract some of the negative aspects of aging.

One simple change to make is to incorporate weightlifting into your exercise regimen. Weightlifting is essential for healthy aging. There are so many ways that it improves health, longevity, and quality of life but there are 2, closely related, areas that it positively impacts that have to do with the aging process as well.

Specifically, cognitive health and mental health. 

Bigger weights = bigger brain? Weightlifting’s impact on cognitive health

Cognitive health can start to decline to some degree as early as 50 years of age. Although it is a slow decline, it can add up over time. When you enter the later years it can somewhat expedite this process.

Here is where weightlifting comes in.

First off, it does wonders for maintaining and improving memory. Studies in both cognitively healthy and cognitively impaired patients saw memory improve as a result of lifting weights. On top of this, studies on both populations produced gains in overall cognitive functioning across the board.

I know that going for a run or some solid walks is always touted as being great for health and cognitive function. I am not trying to knock it down because it is definitely helpful. But, if you compared moderate to high-intensity weight training to cardio, the weight training significantly outperformed cardio in terms of benefits to overall cognitive functioning. Plus, weight training helps with fending off the fog of confusion that seems to slowly roll in our later years.

You may be asking, just how does getting a little pump in your muscles at the gym help older aged populations in this way?

Although there are several ways, one major mechanism revolves around a single molecule. The molecule is known as Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). This fancy-sounding character is actually making an impact bigger than the unnecessary number of characters it takes to type it. For instance, it starts to help by doing some maintenance work. By that I mean it helps existing neurons to be able to survive. This is crucial as the loss of neurons is where we can start to see the slow but inevitable decline to occur.

The other way it helps is by promoting the growth of new neurons and synapses between those neurons. This growth aids the abilities to continue to learn, improve memory, and promote the higher level thinking that we come to take for granted in our youth.

So yeah, if your brain had to vote on whether or not it was a fan of weightlifting, I am pretty sure it would be giving you two thumbs up!

Health is more than physical: Hitting the gym for mental health benefits

Age, experience, and wisdom don’t necessarily protect you from the hard-hitting drops in mental health. Seniors endure the same types of issues of mental health that we see so highly talked about in the media today.

It is known that as the more health issues one has the greater likelihood that they will suffer from a mental disorder such as depression. The CDC explains that 80% of older adults have at least one chronic health condition and 50% have at least one. Then, add in the consideration that as we age there can be a loss of physical functional capabilities, a real danger of falling, and as we explained before, a reduction in cognitive abilities.

Adding that all up doesn’t take a mathematician to know the sum. A much greater likelihood of depression, anxiety, and overall psychological well-being.

Nothing a good prescription of getting your weightlifting on can’t help with.

Weight training has been shown to produce significant reductions in depressive symptoms in older adults and elderly. Not just in healthy patients either but also older adults with dementia who were wheelchair-bound.

How helpful is it though? One study used the Hamilton Rating Scale of Depression and measured the difference between high intensity and low-intensity training. The high-intensity training group saw a 50% or greater reduction in depressive symptoms in 61% of the patients. With the rest of that group having a less than 50% improvement. The low intensity experienced a 50% reduction in 29% of their group.

So, light training can be really beneficial for fending off depression but the more that intensity is kicked up the better. In other studies, light training was assessed for other benefits. For example, daily light training improved self-perception of physical well being, body satisfaction, and self-esteem. In fact, it is just as successful at improving mood, tension, and fatigue as cardio is. While also being able to help calm the anxiety in the volunteers.

I am not prescribing that it is the end-all cure for mental health but the science is pretty clear, it sure as hell helps.

The only thing to do is get started

Obviously, these types of decisions should be discussed with your doctor but the evidence is pretty clear, seniors should be weightlifting. And if you are not at that age yet, you should be starting to make lifting weights a regular part of your routine. Make it a part of your lifestyle. Several studies have shown just how beneficial a life of consistent training can be against a lot of these age-related declines in health.

It can start with something small. All that matters is that you start and then progress from where you started.

If these weren’t enough reasons to convince you why you need to start lifting and just how insanely beneficial it can be for seniors, Nick Rizzo and Monika Miloshevska from RunRepeat.Com has something just for you. They put together the 78 scientifically backed benefits of weightlifting for seniors for you to enlighten yourself with and get you motivated to start hitting the gym.

by Nick Rizzo - 

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