Episode #462 Weight training should be mandatory exercise after 50. That’s a strong statement if you still think it’s optional. A few questions for you if you have any interest in aging optimally, enjoying it.
- Do you strength training twice a week to muscular fatigue?
- Are you able to lift heavy, using weights that cause fatigue within 10 or fewer repetitions?
- Are you consuming adequate calories daily?
- (If you’re trying to lose weight are you creating no more than a 250-500 kcal deficit with a diet higher in protein than normal to minimize muscle loss?)
- Are you fueling before and after your intentional exercise sessions?
- Are you consuming at least 30 grams of protein (not by weight) per meal?
- Do you consume high-quality protein based on essential amino acids?
- Do you prioritize your exercise time and energy around activity that allows muscle and bone maintenance before other activities that don’t support aging optimally the same way?
If you answered no to any of those questions (and the more questions you answer no to), you’re more at risk for growing weaker, sicker, and fatter as you age.
After 50 and After Menopause
Muscle and bone losses begin after each peak at 25 and 30 respectively. During menopause you’re at risk of losing both muscle and bone at an accelerated rate. This is especially true in the late stage of perimenopause and early stage of post menopause. The dramatic decline of estrogen that occurs during this time is the cause. Estrogen services as a stimulus for lean muscle tissue. Without estrogen you need something to replace that stimulus.
The words women echo to me over and over are, “nothing I’m doing works anymore.” “I haven’t changed anything and I’m gaining weight.” Bingo.
When you no longer have the stimulus from estrogen, as well as less testosterone and growth hormone, you have two solutions.
HELLO, WEIGHT TRAINING, NEW BEST FRIEND
One is strength training and the other is protein.
Menopause combined with pandemic effects of reduced activities of daily living, gym closures and dumbbell shortages, increased stress, and research reports of significant weight (fat) gain, a large percent of the population is at elevated risk for health concerns. Those who were exercising more, weren’t necessarily doing more of the activity that preserves muscle and bone. It’s specifically weight training should be mandatory exercise, not just any exercise.
Without mitigation during aging, and specifically menopause, the female human body becomes weaker and fatter. This combination of sarcopenia and obesity, is referred to as sarcobesity. If you’ve lost muscle and gained fat weight during the pandemic, that does not bode well for a healthy future. Not only have losses been significant but they’ve occurred during a relative short window of time.
WHAT WAS TRUE FOR YOU?
If you evaluate your past 18 months, would you say it accelerated or slowed your aging?
The percent of people who actually track their lean muscle tissue and fat weight is fairly small. It’s grown in the last 3-5 years with the affordability and availability of smart scales for home use. It’s one of the #1 home fitness tools I recommended every home have during the pandemic. While I used to suggest going to a fitness center, or a nutrition center, or oddly enough the rare doctor’s office to have body composition tests done regularly, during the pandemic that came to a halt. Every home should have a smart scale.
In early 2021 a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) tracked smart scale users with blue tooth technology. Average weight gain was 1.5lbs a month during the pandemic. By May 2020 that would have been 20lbs. A study published slightly later by the American Psychology Association found the number was between a range of 15 and 29 lbs.
Chances are good this wasn’t muscle.
Weight training should be mandatory exercise after 50 and here’s why.
You have an opportunity to:
- Reverse the effects of aging
- Live longer stronger and independently
- Reduce depression and anxiety
- Increase brain cognition
- Decrease dementia and Alzheimer’s
- Enhance libido
- Improve blood sugar levels/insulin sensitivity
- Decrease risk of diabetes
- Improve blood pressure
- Improve cholesterol levels
- Decrease risk of back pain
- Decrease arthritis pain
- Improve your body composition (reduced fat and increased muscle)
- Decrease your risk of injuries from activities of daily life
- Enhance your enjoyment of activities you love in latter stages of life
- Improve your sleep quality
- Decrease your overall stress levels
- Increase your daily energy
- Boost your daily energy expenditure (metabolism)
- Enhance mitochondria production
- Decrease bone losses
Perhaps the biggest reason of all… number 22:
All of these add up to increased quality of life, extended healthspan, and decreased cost of illness, injuries, and disease.
The Fountain of Youth?
The act of strength training alone, even within correct parameters… won’t be enough without adequate recovery and protein in take.
Though many older adults are mistakenly spending all of their exercise time walking, doing yoga, Pilates, or Barre exercise, these activities alone are not enough to offset devastating muscle and bone losses that will occur without adequate stimulation of muscle. Fatigue is a critical factor in creating enough overload for muscle.
Those aforementioned activities, especially yoga or Pilates, selected specifically for an individual’s needs can be an integral part of a complete program. They may support proper alignment and mobility, making movement more comfortable and in doing so improve results from a muscular and bone building strength program.
They however do not offer enough stimulus for the muscle to significantly increase strength beyond initial beginning stages. Repetitions are often done to 10 in Pilates (mat or reformer) before moving on to another exercise. Those 10 repetitions do not bring a muscle to temporary failure, however. And the focus is not on major muscle groups as much as on stabilizing muscles long enough to have the body composition benefits comparable to lifting weights (whether machine or free weights).
Is the time you spend exercising, actually improving your life and healthspan?
You’re not delicate and yet you have history. You have used that vehicle you’re living in for 5 or 6 decades. You have to start smart, progress wisely, and continue to improve intelligently.
You need a made-for-menopause program not a marketed-for-women program. It’s not about “for your age.” It’s about ability. It’s about status you currently have. Considering all the things that are seemingly “mandatory” or acceptable with aging, shouldn’t something that prevents or reverses them be? Do you agree weight training be mandatory exercise?