Although weight training is now accepted as a necessary part of every exercise routine, it’s still in competition against many of today’s hyped up work-outs. As wonderful as exercise (in any form) is, nothing protects against aging as does strength training simply with a set of dumbbells!
This is for a number of reasons! What provides protection against the many harmful effects of aging is muscle mass, growth hormone, heart capacity, vessel integrity, and oxygen saturation capacity; all of which are benefits of resistance type workouts best achieved through weight-training.
Scientific research has shown that exercise can slow the physiological aging clock. While aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging, or swimming, has many excellent health benefits—it maintains the heart and lungs and increases cardiovascular fitness and endurance—it does not make your muscles strong. Strength training does. Studies have shown that lifting weights two or three times a week increases strength by building muscle mass and bone density. One 12-month study conducted on postmenopausal women at Tufts University demonstrated 1% gains in hip and spine bone density, 75% increases in strength and 13% increases in dynamic balance with just two days per week of progressive strength training. The control group had losses in bone, strength, and balance. Strength training programs can also have a profound effect on reducing risk for falls, which translates to fewer fractures (1).
Growth hormone as the name implies facilitates growth and regeneration. This hormone is at its peak during adolescence and it’s production gradually tapers off as we age. Growth Hormone has been shown to:
- Increase bone density
- Increase muscle mass
- Decrease body fat
- Increase exercise capacity
- Improve Skin Elasticity
As you may be aware, growth hormone replacement therapy was the latest anti-aging fad a few years ago! However taking synthetic growth hormone internally has been found to have a number of side effects. Research however has found that resistance exercise alone can achieve the benefits of growth hormone therapy. In one study the addition of growth hormone along with resistance exercise did not result in any additional improvements (2). The researchers therefore concluded that “going to the gym is beneficial and certainly cheaper than growth hormone [therapy]”. So, why not use the benefits of such an effective hormone by increasing our body’s natural production through resistance training?
Keep in mind however, that only resistance training that is high in intensity, utilizing 8-10 repetitions, heavy resistance and a maximum of one minute rest between sets will maximize serum growth hormone levels!
If you need help in getting started in your strength training routine, please seek the help of a professional advisor (certified trainer, licensed naturopath or your medical doctor) for best results and to prevent injury!
NOTE: For best results it is always advisable to combine your goals with a measurable criteria to best evaluate your achievements! A great tool for tracking increases in muscle mass and body fat loss is through the use of a Bio Impedance Analysis machine. Feasible (no need to submerge under water for body fat % analysis) and accurate, it is a favourite among my patients aiming to alter their body composition by increasing their lean body mass while lowering body fat!