If you're like most of my clients over 40, many of the reasons you should strength train might leave you unconvinced. The rippling abs at the poolside and flirtatious glances across the gym are more of an irritating distraction than a persuasive reason to try a new style of training.
But "middle age" probably isn't something you're ready for either. If walking downstairs makes your knees sound like the cellar door in a horror movie. You're often resisting the lure of the afternoon nap ("I was just resting my eyes, honest!"). If you're now having to decide to either buy new pants or lose those few extra pounds you've been carrying around… Read on.
Reason #1. Increased Muscle Mass
One of the best reasons to include strength training is the increase in lean muscle tissue. This is great for many reasons; you look lean and muscular, not the frail look that comes with losing a lot of weight without strength training.
Your leaner physique carries more muscle mass, which means you'll burn more calories while at rest, and eat more calories without gaining weight. This means more muscle mass is essential for foodies!
A more muscular physique doesn't mean you'll be bulky - far from it - unless that's a look you're actively trying to achieve. It means you'll be better protected from those aches and pains in your joints that may be starting to creep in. The extra muscle will preserve and strengthen the vulnerable joints like the knees, hips, shoulders, and low back.
Reason #2. Improved Mobility and Flexibility
Flexibility is about muscles being able to lengthen through a range of motion passively. In other words, being bendy. It's the foundation of mobility and can improve posture, coordination, and muscle performance.
Mobility is about the joint being active in a range of motion. That means not just bendy, but strong in that position. It's crucial for keeping your body in the safest position to use your strength effectively.
Strength training should include both flexibility and mobility work. They matter because the improved balance helps prevent falls - and if falls do happen, you're less likely to be injured. The enhanced strength that comes with mobile joints means it's easier to keep up with the demands of life. Quality of life is improved because you can enjoy activities or sports without worrying about physical limitations.
Reason #3. Improved Bone Mass
Peak bone mass is when bones are their most dense. This means they are less likely to break. Bone density peaks around age 25-30, and by age 40, we are all starting to lose bone density - unless we do something about it.
A loss of bone density is known as osteoporosis. Some people are more susceptible to it than others; women over 40 in particular, especially those who have been smokers and who drink alcohol regularly.
As well as consuming a broadly healthy diet, including enough calcium and vitamin D, lifting weights can help make bones denser. This prevents injury from fragile bones. It also improves the chances of a full recovery in the event of a minor accident.
Reason #4. Improved Cognitive Function and Health
Recent research suggests that lifting weights regularly can improve cognitive function compared to people who don't. So, you'll have better memory, quicker and more accurate perception, a longer attention span, verbal accuracy, and you'll find it easier to use language and experience a subjective improvement in thinking.
Thi effect of resistance training has been established for a while in older populations. Still, now it's recognized in younger lifters too. It's not entirely clear why this happens, it's thought it might be because of new neural connections formed, but if lifting weights a few times a week comes with all these bonuses? It's worth considering.
The benefits of lifting weights go beyond the physique goals that you may have been led to believe are the ultimate goal. The benefits to your longevity and holistic health can't be understated. That's without any comment about the extensive mental and emotional health benefits.
Often when people start regularly training for strength, they are first drawn in by the physical benefits. The thing that makes weight training so attractive to people in the long term is usually the less visible benefits - feeling younger, sleeping better, and having more energy. If you're new to lifting weights, it's good to start under the guidance of a coach to make sure you're moving safely and with proper technique.