Strength training doesn’t necessarily mean lifting heavy weights or building big muscles. It can do, if that’s what you’re looking for. But it can also involve using light weights for greater repetitions, using weight machines at the gym, going to a strength training exercise class, or just doing body weight exercises. This means there’s a type of strength training that can work for the over 50’s. And all can be helpful!
Keeping your bones strong
We can start to lose bone density from around age 35 and more so when you are in the over 50’s category . So, as we get into our 50’s and beyond, we have an ever-increasing risk of osteoporosis – a condition that affects around three million people in the UK1.
Women can see a dramatic drop in bone density at menopause, because they lose the bone-protecting effects of oestrogen. But men can have osteoporosis too.
To help stop and even increase bone density it is useful to do weight-bearing exercise and strength training, even after menopause in women2.
Reducing risk of falls and injury for the over 50’s
We naturally lose muscle mass and strength from our 30’s, over 50’s and into old age, but why should this be a problem?
We need good muscle strength to lift and also to keep our body stable to avoid falling over or getting injured. Falls can have especially serious consequences in the over 50’s. We need muscle strength to help us perform our daily tasks, whether it’s walking to the shops or getting up from a chair.
Improving body shape and preventing weight gain
Strength training tones all our muscles and keeps us looking fit and healthy. By maintaining muscle strength, we’re less likely to gain body fat.
- Improving testosterone levels in men
Testosterone starts to drop in men from around age 35 to 40, by around 1 to 3 per cent per year3. And by late 40’s and over 50’s, men can start to experience symptoms such as low sex drive, weight gain (especially on the tummy), tiredness, depression and poor sleep. This is sometimes known as the ‘male menopause’.
Exercise is a key way to help maintain testosterone levels as men get older. Strength training with heavy weights has been found to boost testosterone levels in men directly after exercise3. However endurance type exercise for example long-distance running or cycling may lower testosterone levels in the long run4.
Reducing risk of diabetes
Strength training has been found to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes5. This may be because muscle helps the body to take glucose (sugar) out of the blood and store it6, Therefore, meaning better blood sugar control.
Supporting memory and cognition
Strength training and maintaining good muscle mass may help to keep our brains sharp as we get over 50 and even help prevent Alzheimer’s disease7,8.
One study on 37 elderly women found that 12 weeks of strength training three times a week improved their cognitive capacity (memory, reasoning, learning, etc.) by 19% compared to a control group that did not do the training.9
- uk. Osteoporosis. [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/osteoporosis/ [Accessed 5 Apr. 2018].
- Zehnacker CH, Bemis-Dougherty A. Effect of weighted exercises on bone mineral density in post menopausal women. A systematic review. J Geriatr Phys Ther. 2007;30(2):79-88.
- Vingren JL et al. Testosterone physiology in resistance exercise and training: the up-stream regulatory elements. Sports Med. 2010 Dec 1;40(12):1037-53.
- Hackney AC. The male reproductive system and endurance exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1996 Feb;28(2):180-9.
- Shiroma EJ et al. Strength Training and the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2017 Jan;49(1):40-46.
- Scott D et al. Sarcopenia: a potential cause and consequence of type 2 diabetes in Australia’s ageing population? Med J Aust. 2016 Oct 3;205(7):329-33.
- Portugal EM et al. Aging process, cognitive decline and Alzheimer`s disease: can strength training modulate these responses? CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2015;14(9):1209-13.
- Hurley BF, Hanson ED, Sheaff AK. Strength training as a countermeasure to aging muscle and chronic disease. Sports Med. 2011 Apr 1;41(4):289-306.
- Smolarek Ade C et al. The effects of strength training on cognitive performance in elderly women. Clin Interv Aging. 2016 Jun 1;11:749-54.
From the team at Heale's Chiropractic Clinics
Over 30 years of helping people in Hitchin and Luton and the surrounding areas of Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire