The average adult begins to lose muscle mass in their early 40s at a rate of about 5% a decade. That means someone in their 70s has lost 20% of their muscle mass. No wonder the typical idea of aging includes frailty, falls, and dependence!
The good news is that strength (or resistance) training—a.k.a. lifting weights—can reverse that loss of muscle mass. And you can start at any age and see benefits. In multiple experiments, older people who started to lift weights saw increased strength and muscle mass, as well as improved mobility and mental sharpness.
In fact, one study showed that 85-year-old weightlifters demonstrated similar power to 65-year-olds who did not lift, suggesting continued, long-term resistance training offers an approximately 20-year advantage.
Help with chronic conditions
Strength training has been extensively studied and can reduce the signs and symptoms of many diseases and chronic conditions, especially those connected with aging:
• Arthritis – Reduces pain and stiffness, and increases strength and flexibility
• Diabetes – Improves glycemic control
• Osteoporosis – Builds bone density and improves balance to help reduce risk of falls
• Heart disease – Reduces cardiovascular risk by improving lipid profile and overall fitness
• Obesity – Increases metabolism, which helps burn more calories and helps with long-term weight control
• Back pain – Strengthens back and abdominal muscles to reduce stress on the spine
Studies at Tufts University have shown that strength training is one of the best ways to fight the weakness and frailty that can come with age. It also makes other daily activities easier: You’ll be able to lift that gallon of milk easily—not to mention get in and out of a chair, climb stairs, and carry groceries.
Better quality of life
Overall, lifting weights can do some amazing things for both your body and mind. Strength training has been shown to be directly associated with reductions in depressive symptoms. In addition, higher intensity training has been associated with greater positive improvements in vitality, quality of life, and positive change in sleep quality.
People have successfully started strength training in their 70s, 80s, and even 90s, and you can too—especially if you’re a resident at a Revel community, which offers a fitness studio and certified instructors. You will need to start slowly and follow basic safety rules (after checking with your doctor, of course). But there’s no such thing as being too old or out of shape to benefit from strength training.