The benefits of weight training

Oct 28, 2017

Thirty minutes of aerobic activity is the well-known secret to staying healthy and fit -- even as you age -- but many forget about weight or strength training. Adding strength training to your aerobic exercise, or starting in general, could help reduce other health issues.

Dr. Stuart Phillips, the director of the Physical Activity Center of Excellence (PACE) as well as the McMaster Center for Nutrition, Exercise, and Health joins us to discuss why it is important to incorporate weight training into your exercise routine as you age.

Weight training to improve overall health

Weight training isn’t just used to gain muscle and increase strength.  Like aerobic activity, it could help fight off health problems that come with aging. One benefit of adding weight training is it could help reduce inflammation and the health risks associated with it.

“So what we do know about inflammation is that when it’s present with other morbidities or conditions as people get older it just makes the whole situation worse,” says Philips. “It can be the one thing if you add it on top it’s going to push you into some sort of disease crisis area that would prompt you to seek out the advice of a physician if you haven’t already.”

Lifting weights isn’t just going to make your muscles stronger either. Weight training can also strengthen your bones. 

“It’s interesting because bones like skeletal muscles have what we call mechanically sensitive devices within their tissues that are able to sense some external load,” says Phillips. “That mechanical force is somehow sensed by the bone and it essentially sends a signal that says to the bone it’s time to make more new and stronger bone.”

Physical health isn’t the only benefit from weight training. Adding it to your regular exercise regimen could help fight against cognitive problems that come with aging including slowing down the development of Alzheimer’s.

How to get active

While picking up something like weight training without any experience seems daunting, knowing how to do these exercises safely is key. Phillips suggests looking into personal trainers or gyms that specify in assisting elderly adults to help you get started. He cites The National Institute of Aging as a source of with information on exercises you can do at home and how to do them safely.

“It doesn’t have to be an external weight; it doesn’t have to mean somebody goes to the gym. I’ve talked about body weight exercises just a little bit. Squatting up and down from a chair is supporting your own body weight.”