Friday, 12 June 2015

Weight Training is For Life!

During your daily drive in the car you may well see a sticker that rightly states 'A dog if for life and not just for Christmas'. I think we need to be producing a new sticker that proclaims 'Weight training is for life and not just for our youth!'.

Scientific studies have shown over and over again that we can push back the aging process by regular weight training sessions. Many people now stay mentally alert well into their 80s and 90s, but it is their bodies that let them down, particularly in modern times when walking has become less of a necessity and we are more reliant on the car.

I have a passionate dislike for the 'R' word - retirement. I'm now over 50, and more conversations at dinner parties are dominated by the question "what are you going to do when you retire?". I for one have no intention of retiring! During the conversations people always throw in statements that include "I will potter around the garden" or "I will do some work on the house" - give me a break, please!

My father was a car worker, and for him life ended at 65. He walked out of the factory, received his pension, and within two years he had died. Is this what we have to look forward to? I sincerely believe that this doesn't have to be the case. My stated aim is to live beyond 100, and I'm going to make sure that the next 50 years are more productive and enjoyable than the first 50 years.

Integral to my desire for a long and fulfilled life is the necessity for a weight training or body building life style. Yes, you can take up weight training as a sport at any point during your life, but it's far better to have made it a commitment for life. In a recent newspaper article, Dr Miriam Nelson at Tufts University in Boston is quoted as saying "If muscle isn't stimulated, your body senses that you don't need it".

There are significant benefits to weight training whatever your age, and these benefits are described by Dr. Nelson. Of most encouragement to us all is that it's never too late, and well into our 90s our systems can be stimulated through weight training.

Diabetes is becoming increasingly common as a result of our more sedentary lifestyle, and light to moderate weight training can benefit type 2 diabetics by increasing muscle mass and decreasing insulin resistance. Exercise also benefits the heart in that it makes the lining of blood vessels more flexible, thus facilitating blood flow around the body.

Two of the most significant features of old age are sarcopenia and osteoporosis. The former involves the loss of muscle mass as we age. This may lead to increased fat deposits and it is associated with insulin resistance. It also means that we loose posture and visibly begin to shrink. Ben Hurley of the University of Maryland says that if you overload them in a gradual way, you can make the muscles bigger and stronger by making each muscle fibre thicker.

Even before we reach the age of 40 our bones stop growing and begin to gradually deteriorate. As this process outstrips the rate at which we develop new bone, osteoporosis can have an increasing effect. Again, if we follow a sensible weight training programme then bone density will improve and we will be much less susceptible to breaks and fractures caused by the bones becoming weak and brittle.

The importance of weight training and body building as key factors in the maintenance of a long and healthy life cannot be emphasized enough. Of course, there are other factors such as nutrition and mental health that need equal attention, but we need to understand that in order to enjoy life well into our 70s, 80s and even 90s physical exercise continues to be as essential as it was when we were much younger. As an educator I have frequently been told that 'learning is wasted on the young'. I totally disagree with this statement as I am a passionate advocate of 'lifelong learning'. I believe that the same is true of exercise - 'weight training is for life and not just for our youth'.

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