It’s an unfortunate fact of life. As you get older you have to work harder to stay in the same physical condition you were in when you were younger.
Unless you work at keeping fit, every year your muscle mass and bone density decrease, while your body fat increases. It’s so unfair. If you find your current exercise program is no longer enough to keep your weight and waistline where you want them to be, consider upgrading your fitness regime.
If you’re ready to take your exercise program to the next level, adding strength training is an excellent choice for both your body and your brain.
What Strength Training Is, and Isn’t
Strength training involves using your muscles to overcome a force and there are many ways to do it. You can use equipment like dumbbells, barbells, exercise machines, elastic tubing, medicine balls, or kettle bells.
Strength training isn’t the same thing as body building, so don’t get freaked out thinking you’ll have to deadlift huge barbells or wind up with a physique like Arnold’s!
You’ll often hear other terms being used synonymously for strength training. Resistance training is a collective term for various types of exercises that rely on the use of hydraulic or elastic action to promote muscle growth.
Weight training refers to using dumbbells or free weights. Body weight exercises are using your body’s own weight to provide resistance instead of using a piece of equipment. There are some pretty advanced systems based on this concept that go way beyond doing pushups.
Strength Training for Your Body
As you age, you can expect your muscle strength and size, bone density, and metabolic rate to decrease, but strength training can reverse these trends. It can improve bone density, raise metabolism, contribute to heart health, and improve overall health and fitness.
One of the best reasons to strength train is that it’s associated with fewer falls and broken bones. Falls account for 25% of seniors’ hospital admissions and 40% of nursing home admissions. Tragically, almost half who enter a nursing home never return to independent living. Over 10,000 seniors die per year from these falls.
Here’s a graphic illustration of the annual consequences of these falls from LearnNotToFall.com.
Strength Training for Your Brain
Now, let’s finally delve into what you came here for — how strength training can help your brain.
Exercise is a known brain booster. It increases blood supply to the brain and promotes the formation of new brain cells. It’s widely considered one of the best things you can do to increase brain fitness. But are there any benefits of strength training over aerobic exercise?
Some studies have found that strength training boosts brain function even more than aerobic activities! One study reported significant cognitive improvement after six months of twice-weekly workout sessions and supported this with a series of MRIs which showed positive changes in parts of the brain associated with cognitive behavior.
This video by the University of British Columbia explains the benefits of resistance training, and also has a couple of seniors demonstrating a few basic exercises to get you started. I like the dry humor too.
Getting Started with Strength Training
I’m not a weight-lifting kind of gal. I’m easily baffled by the terminology — what the heck are sets, reps, and supersets anyway? But since I understand the benefits, I do it anyway.
However, you won’t find me at the gym pumping iron! I know myself well enough to know I’d rarely (as in “never”) make it to the gym. :roll: If you enjoy working out at the gym, go for it! They’ve got the equipment and trainers to help. But if you’d rather exercise at home, here are three great ways to get started, depending on your current level of fitness.
- If you don’t or can’t exercise because of aches and pains due to general “wear and tear” or injuries, Scott Sonnon’s Ageless Mobility would be perfect for you. It’s designed to restore fluid to the joints to enable full range of motion using your body’s own weight. It works like rehab to undo the pain of old injuries. User feedback is excellent — one user says “Scott Sonnon is truly to fitness what Eric Clapton is to a guitar”! This program is unconditionally guaranteed for 60 days, so you have plenty of time to see how it works for you.
- If you currently do some exercise like walking, biking, or aerobics, but don’t do any strength training, get started with a set of resistance bands. They are inexpensive, lightweight, and easily transportable. They’re great for every fitness level because you can easily make any exercise as easy or as hard as you’d like and as you get stronger, they’ll grow with you. The most popular set on Amazon is the Black Mountain Products Resistance Band Set. This set contains everything you need at one reasonable price — five bands of varying resistance, door anchor, carrying bag, ankle strap, handles, and a starter guide. You’ll be amazed at the variety of exercises you can do with something so simple!
- If you want to try strength training and need to lose weight, a coordinated diet and exercise program can help you get the best results in the shortest time. When my husband and I are in need of a reboot, we use ShapeShifter Body Redesign. This comprehensive six-week healthy eating and exercise program is highly customizable, and is appropriate for anyone regardless of your current fitness level. This program, like Ageless Mobility, uses body weight exercises, so no equipment is needed. I like that this program goes deeper into weight-related issues such as mindset and digestive health.
You’re Never Too Told to Start!
I know some of you are thinking that you’re too old to start this kind of exercise program. Before you go, be sure to watch the TED talk video Why Bodybuilding at 93 is a Great Idea. This strength training nonagenarian is sure to inspire you!
Regular Exercise and Resistance Training Are Good for the Brain at AlzInfo.org
Strength Training May Give Boost to Seniors’ Brains at Health.USNews.com
Our Best Recommendations for Brain Health & Fitness
ShapeShifter Body Redesign
Exercise and diet program
We like this program for its exercise component mostly. It uses bodyweight training – a very effective type of strength training – that is good for ANY age and conditioning level. And there's no expensive equipment needed! We also like that this kind of exercise is easy to live with, meaning you'll be more likely to continue to do it.
RMAX Ageless Mobility
Unique exercise program
If aches and pains stop you from exercising, this is for you. Truly innovative program mobilizes joints for pain-free movement and overall vitality. User feedback is excellent!
Wi-Fi smart scale
Toss your old bathroom scale; it's outdated. This scale tracks what really matters - body fat % and BMI (and weight too) - and works with your computer and smartphone to show you how you're progressing.