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We are all getting older, that is defiantly a non-debatable topic.  However, have you thought about how you can make your golden years more enjoyable for yourself?  Do you have pain in your knees and back, but think that is just what happens as we age? Are you in pain when you do a simple movement like walking, so you think there is no way you could ever start a weight training program as it will make you worse?  And have you thought about two very common diseases that is now becoming very relevant to the aging population, Dementia and Cancer?

People are living longer due to the health care that is now available to them.  Nevertheless, Imagine living out the rest of your life taking countless pills each day that are helping to keep you alive.  Imagine being kept alive by the medication that you are taking, but your body is in so much pain the thought of moving is just too much.  Therefore, you live out your days, day by day sitting around waiting.  Your life doesn’t need to be that way.  Recent studies are showing that one of the best activities for the mature and motivated over 50’s is weight training.

“Building muscle is like building a personal pharmacy stocked with "medicine" that does your body good”. Is a great quote by Professor Rob Newton, Director of Exercise Medicine Research at Edith Cowan University.  Muscle tissue is not just a helping hand to our bones to move our bodies.  Muscle tissue secretes beneficial chemicals such as hormones and cytokines that have a positive effect on our bodies.  That is the reason why you read everywhere now that living a sedentary life is so bad for us.  If we don’t maintain our muscle tissue our pharmacy will start selling out of all the beneficial chemicals that help us live a nice life.

Many people carry far too much fat and not near enough muscle.  Just as muscle produces chemicals to make us healthier, too much excess fat will then secrete inflammatory chemicals that will be detrimental to our health.  We do need some fat in our bodies, but we need to have more muscle and less fat to keep our internal chemistry in balance, otherwise having too much fat will contribute to chronic disease.

A very important hormone that is produce by the muscles is BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor).  This will help to grow and maintain new brain cells and is thought to be a major contributor to fighting dementia.

Testosterone is another hormone which is beneficial to the brain.  Men who have declining testosterone levels are more likely to suffer Dementia.  But when you lift a weight that causes a heavy resistance on your muscles, both men and women have a surge of this hormone.  Women produce less testosterone than men, but women’s brains are more responsive to its effect.  Women normally have low testosterone levels, so this mean that lifting weights will really stimulate their brain, and help fight dementia which now occurs in 1 in 3 women.

Strength training should be the new modern day medicine to treat chronic diseases such as, Diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, Osteoporosis, Arthritis and heart failure.  Improvements in bone strength and blood glucose levels are the most commonly recognised benefits from strength training, but only now through new research is it trickling down through to the community what other amazing benefits strength training will have on your health.

TYPE 2 DIABETES- Lifting a weight that creates resistance to the muscle is the key to prevent this disease.  With muscle growth the uptake of glucose helps keep the blood glucose levels healthy minimising your risk of Diabetes.

OSTEOPOROSIS- The best preventer of this disease is weight training.  When you lift a weight, your muscles are forced to pull on the bone for the movement.  The harder it pulls against the bone the more bone tissue is laid down to create strength to the bone.

ARTHRITIS- Strength training will ease the pain caused by arthritis by building muscle that supports your joints, helping to take the pressure off the area.  The stronger you are, the easier it is to move about, so you will live a better more enjoyable life.  In addition, when you lift heavy weights, Synovial fluid that surrounds the joint will thicken up.  This helps to lubricate the joint reducing pain and further degeneration of the joint. 

ALZHEIMER”S DISEASE- Studies undertaken by the University of Sydney has found that strength training improved brain function in people with mild cognitive impairment, which is a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. 

Parkinson Disease- Strength training is a popular treatment for this disease to help improve balance and mobility.

CANCER- Strength training can improve the survival rate of people with some forms of cancer.  Studies show a 40 – 50 per cent lower risk of mortality in breast, prostate and bowl cancer survivors.  Studies done on animals have shown that activating muscle through exercise will improve the effectiveness of the immune system and release hormones and other chemicals  known to have an anti – tumour effect.  More research is being done on humans to prove this.

The best evidence that resistance training is great for cancer sufferers is that it will improve their quality of life and physical function which will put them in a stronger state of mind to fight the disease.

Starting a weight training program should be number 1 on your to do list if you want to age as gracefully as possible.  If done correctly it can only benefit your life and everyone else’s around you.  Being strong in your body will help you to keep your independence.  It will allow you to keep driving your car and it will keep diseases away.  No one wants to ever die of a disease, the fitter and stronger you are,, the higher chance you will have of living out your final years in the best possible way.

It’s not too late to start a strength training program.  I am training people up to 94 years of age.  The biggest improvement I see in each and every one of my clients is improvements in their confidence.  They are suddenly able to do things that they had given up hope ever doing again.  Why?  Because they are gaining muscle and movement becomes so much easier again.

Amber Schuecker