The Benefits of Strength Training As We Age

As we get older, our bodies inevitably go through changes. One significant change is the loss of muscle mass, which can start as early as age 35. Strength training is an effective way to counteract this age-related muscle loss. In this conversation, fitness experts discuss the importance of strength training for women as they age, how to get started, and healthy habits to support muscle building.

Muscle Loss Starts Earlier Than We Think

Around age 35, women start losing muscle mass due to declining hormones and reduced physical activity. This muscle loss significantly accelerates after age 60, with women losing up to 3% of their muscle mass per year.

While this can seem discouraging, the good news is that strength training can dramatically slow or even stop this age-related muscle loss. Studies show that women can build strength and muscle at any age – even those who are just starting out in their 60s and 70s.

Building muscle is not just about looking toned. It provides essential health benefits, including:

  • Increased bone density
  • Improved joint health
  • Better blood sugar regulation
  • Enhanced metabolic rate
  • Reduction in body fat
  • Decreased risk of chronic diseases

So while you may not be able to stop the aging process, you can take charge of your health by counteracting muscle loss through strength training.

Getting Started with Strength Training

If you’re new to strength training, it’s important not to get overwhelmed. Start slowly and focus on creating sustainable habits. Here are some tips:

Train 2-3 Days Per Week

Aim to strength train 2-3 days per week, making sure to allow for rest and recovery between sessions. This frequency is enough to stimulate muscle growth over time.

Work All Major Muscle Groups

Exercises should target all the major muscle groups – legs, hips, back, chest, shoulders, arms and core. You can split them up over different days or do full-body workouts. There’s no single right or wrong approach.

Use Proper Form and Weights

Focus on proper form rather than the amount of weight lifted. As a beginner, err on the side of using lighter weights until you build foundational strength and technique. Proper form prevents injury. Consider working with a trainer initially.

Start Simple

Simple bodyweight exercises like squats, push-ups and planks are highly effective for building strength. You don’t need fancy equipment or a gym membership to start strength training. Begin with your own body weight then gradually increase resistance.

Make It a Habit

Consistency over time is key for building muscle. Choose a strength training schedule that fits your lifestyle so you can stick with it. Even a shorter workout is better than nothing.

Fuel Your Body to Build Muscle

Strength training breaks down muscle fibers so they can grow back stronger. To support this process, it’s important to properly fuel your body:

Consume Enough Protein

Protein provides the amino acids that are the building blocks for repairing and building muscle. Aim for 0.7-1 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. Include high quality sources like meat, fish, eggs, dairy and plant proteins like beans, lentils and tofu.

Eat Nutritious Carbs

While lowering carbs can help with fat loss, carbs are still an important fuel for strength training. Focus on nutrient-dense, high fiber carbs like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and starchy veggies. Time carb intake around workouts for optimal energy.

Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of water and electrolyte-rich fluids during the day and around workouts. Dehydration hampers performance and muscle recovery.

Working out on an empty stomach triggers the breakdown of muscle protein for fuel. It also increases cortisol levels, which interferes with muscle building. Eat a balanced meal 1-2 hours pre-workout.

Support Recovery Nutrition

Replenish glycogen stores after training with a mix of carbs and protein. Aim for 0.14–0.23 grams of protein per pound of body weight and 1–1.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight within 30 mins to 2 hours post-workout.

Developing Healthy Strength Training Habits

Getting into a regular strength training routine requires forming new habits and being kind to yourself in the process. Here are some tips:

Start Small

Don’t try to do too much too soon. Lifting heavy right away can lead to burnout, soreness and frustration. Build up slowly over time for more sustainable progress.

Schedule It

Treat strength training sessions like appointments in your calendar to hold yourself accountable. Plan ahead so other commitments don’t crowd out your workouts.

Focus on Progress

Whether it’s adding more weight, doing another rep or simply showing up consistently, focus on small wins. Progress takes time so be patient with yourself.

Listen to Your Body

Take rest days when needed. Soreness, pain, fatigue and lack of motivation are signs to take a break or reduce intensity. Training harder is not always better.

Make It Enjoyable

Finding pleasure and satisfaction in your workouts goes a long way towards sticking with it. Play energizing music, train with friends or simply focus on how strength training makes you feel.

Life happens. If you need to reduce your training temporarily due to stress or other demands, don’t be afraid to scale back and rebuild when ready. Doing something is better than nothing.

Focus on your own progress rather than comparing to others at the gym or on social media. We all start somewhere and have different genetics, backgrounds and obstacles.

Note monthly or quarterly fitness milestones like being able to lift more weight or finish a workout routine you couldn’t previously complete. Progress fuels motivation.

Celebrate Small Victories

Strength training provides incredible health and quality of life benefits as we age. The key is taking a sustainable approach that works for your schedule and current fitness level. Focus on consistency, proper nutrition, listening to your body and celebrating small victories along the way. While it takes dedication, the payoff over the long-term is well worth the effort.

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