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How Weight Training Affects Aging

How Weight Training Affects Aging
This is what 50 looks like.

When people talk about exercise, they tend to group exercise types by their benefits. For example, running, cycling, swimming and other aerobic type activities are called cardiovascular (cardio) workouts, and they're known to provide significant benefits for the heart. Weight training or resistance workouts are known to build muscle and help slow the effects of aging like muscle and bone loss.

But researchers found weight training programs do more than originally thought. Patients who worked out for just an hour a week, saw between a 40-70% reduction in heart attacks and stroke. That number remained the same, even when patients failed to perform the suggested amount of cardio every week.

The data came from the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, where they have annual checkup information on thousands of men and women. A total of 12,591 records were used to tabulate the results including detailed questionnaires about patients exercise habits and health. The average age of the patient was 47 and they had to have visited the clinic at least twice, between the years of 1987 and 2006.

Researchers discovered the greatest benefit happened for people who exercise twice a week, for a total of at least an hour. More exercise didn't hurt, it just didn't provide much greater protective benefit.

Researchers did not get details on the specific types of exercises people were doing, how much weight they used or how many reps they performed. They were only interested if they engaged in weight lifting activities or not. But the results show the patients didn't have to do much, to realize a huge benefit. Who can't spare the time to exercise for just 30 minutes, twice a week?

There are other factors, that researchers think weight-training benefited, that contributed to the results. People with more muscle burn more calories, so they weigh less and that helps prevent strokes. Regular exercise also strengthens the heart, which reduces the chances of a heart attack.

There's even more benefit if you've been exercising regularly for many years. Muscle tends to diminish and atrophy as we age. So researchers at the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University, decided to evaluate people who never stopped working out and were in their 70s. They wanted to check into the composition of the muscle and see how it compared to younger exercisers.

They discovered that the muscles of their 75-year-old lifelong exercisers, appeared about the same as the muscles of the 25-year-old's they analyzed. Imagine that. The muscles of a 75-year-old were virtually the same as someone 50 years younger, as long as they maintained a regular workout program.

How exercise actually provides these benefits, on a molecular level, is still a mystery. Scientists have found different proteins moving through the bloodstreams of people who exercise versus those that don't. The levels of circulating proteins varied, sometimes substantially, between the exercisers and couch potatoes. The proteins researchers have tracked, affect many systems in our bodies known to be involved in maintaining and improving health.

There still a question of how the cause and effect work. It is not known if exercise causes an increase in the beneficial proteins; and then that increase improves overall health. OR if the act of exercising improves overall health; which then triggers a release of the beneficial proteins. But one thing is certain, regular exercise is the closest thing to a fountain of youth currently available.

As we push the boundaries of how long people can live, it's more important than ever to keep healthy and maintain a good quality of life. The miracles of modern medicine can help you live into your 90s and even cross the 100-year mark. Would you prefer to reach that age struggling, constantly relying on medical intervention? Or in a body that's strengthened by regular exercise so you're able to move with fewer restrictions and less pain?

We now know that a regular weight training program is essential for a better quality of life.

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