Why resistance training prevents muscle loss with age and helps prevent chronic diseases
Weight training and sarcopenia -
Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass related to age or periods of inactivity.
As we age the body naturally loses some of its fast twitch muscle fibres - these are the muscle fibres that tend to give a larger appearance and supply strength and power. The body naturally keeps its slow twitch muscle fibres which, in training terms, are the ones that help marathon runners cover long distances.
To maintain mobility and strength, it's vital that the fast twitch muscle fibres (or type 2 /type 2x fibres as they are referred to) are trained. The good news is that regular resistance training will preserve and positively encourage these types of muscle fibres to grow.
Studies have extensively shown that resistance training can massively slow down the effects of muscle loss due to age and it’s very important to take into account that at any age “The less active a person’s lifestyle, the earlier age-related changes will manifest” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3117172/. Therefore we cannot recommend resistance training and exercising enough to help ward off the effects of ageing and muscle loss.
Benefits from resistance training
The maintenance of fast twitch muscle fibres will improve general mobility and strength, improving movement capability and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks efficiently. Not only this but having more muscle on the body will also go a long way to prevent Type 2 diabetes. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2019.00645/full) This is due to skeletal muscle taking up 80% of the body's glucose, acting as a glucose sink. This amongst other reasons, eases the stress on the pancreas and lowers the risk from Type 2 diabetes.
Bone health and strength is also greatly improved with resistance training, lessening the risk of osteoporosis (https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/strength-training-builds-more-than-muscles).
Another positive factor is that cardiovascular disease is reduced with resistance training. A study shows that 30 minutes worth of resistance training a week has the same reduction in CVD risk as 2.5hrs of walking (https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2019.00645/full).
It's clear that resistance training has a demonstrable preventative effect on not only maintaining muscle as we age but also a plethora of other health benefits.
So what’s the best way to start?
Train the right way
Resistance training using free weights, cable machines, or strength machines is very rewarding and an excellent introduction or addition to an exercise programme.
Done properly, it is a very safe way of exercise and one that can be designed to accommodate injuries and differing levels of mobility and ability.
Everyone is different and so too should their approach be to resistance training. However the important thing is to just get started! Don’t be put off by the selection of exercises, just get started and work from there, as long as you're doing something, that is the most important thing.
If you see people in the gym doing exercises, don’t feel you have to copy them. The exercise may not be the best for you or the most enjoyable. Strength machines tend to be a fairly safe bet as they require less skill to use, and generally have instructions on how to use them.
How many times should I train and for how long?
Once a week is a great start. Any amount of weight training will have a positive effect on your body and you will be improving your overall health and quality of life by the addition to your lifestyle. To see fast, effective results, 2-3 times a week is optimal.
Aim to complete 4-6 exercises over the course of up to an hour - although sometimes you can complete an effective resistance session in half an hour!
We would recommend aiming for 4 compound exercises. These exercises use several joints in one go and therefore challenge multiple muscles. An example might be: dumbbell chest press, single arm rows, leg press etc.
Then add in two isolation movements such as a leg extension or cable triceps press. An isolation movement uses just one joint and focuses just on one muscle.
The first exercise you do can be your warm up - just make sure you go really light and concentrate on technique for a few sets.
Sets and Reps
Reps are the amount of repetitions of the exercise you do. For example, 12 reps of dumbbell rows per set.
Sets are the amount of times you do the repetitions. For example, 3 sets of 12 reps.
3 sets of 12 reps is a good place to start when doing weights or resistance training.
The first set of every exercise you do can be your warm up - just make sure you go really light and concentrate on technique for the first set.
Sometimes you may need to do more sets to get properly warmed up.
We’re here to help
We think resistance training should be part of every programme. There are so many great benefits to this form of training that we even designed our Goods Station Road studio to include some of the best machines and equipment for resistance training in the industry.
If you’re unsure of how to get started using resistance training, our trainers would be happy to help. We offer a free consultation and tour of our studios in Tunbridge Wells with one of our trainers at TWPT that specialise in resistance training.
Click here to get in touch.