Anti-Aging: Choose How Your Body Ages
When it comes to anti-aging, you have two choices. You can continue
the process of becoming weaker, day by day, as your muscles atrophy
from disuse. Or you can choose to become stronger and to maintain your
strength and independence as long as possible.
After we reach maturation at about age 30, we begin the long process
of aging as we lose half a pound of muscle each year - unless we work
at keeping that muscle from atrophying. This choice is even more
critical as we reach our 60s and 70s and the process of becoming weaker
Strength training or strength exercise is one of the best methods to
retain muscle and prevent aging. The goal is to cause muscles to
increase in size and strength, and also to increase tendon, bone, and
Before 1900, strength training was thought to be a form of
exercise that was not meant for the average person. It was believed
that weight training would actually diminish athletic abilities and the
only men who lifted weights were circus strongmen.
In the 1930s, athletes began to experiment with weight lifting and
now every professional sports team has trainers on staff and almost all
athletes lift weights in order to perform better in the sport of their
However, until the 1980s it was still believed that loss of muscle
and strength as people got older was inevitable and nothing could be
done about it. Strength training programs for older participants placed
them on a program of lifting weights that were only one-half as heavy
as the maximum they could lift one time. Younger participants lifted at
least 80 percent of the amount they could lift only once, but it was
believed that using heavier weights for older people would cause
injuries or cardiac problems.
In the late 1980s scientists at Tufts University in Boston,
Massachusetts decided to strength train a group of volunteers—men in
their sixties and seventies—at a higher intensity than had ever been
done before. They worked the volunteers at 80 percent of their capacity
— and the results shattered myths about aging. There were no injuries
or cardiac episodes. In twelve weeks, the muscles they had been
exercising became 10 to 12 percent larger and 100 to 175 percent
Often women are afraid to lift weights because they think they will
get huge muscles - but that doesn't happen to females. What does happen
is that the "bat wings" hanging below their upper arms become firmer
and less saggy.
Another concern is that they will have to get hot and sweaty while
they exercise. But doing a simple strength routine with light and
medium weights doesn't have that result, either.
Many people who are unfamiliar with the concept of strength training
are hesitant to venture into this unknown arena. They tell me that they
are afraid they won't do the exercises correctly and may injure
themselves. Others say "I know I should exercise, but I'm just too
lazy" or "I worked hard all my life and I'm not ever doing anything
Why not grow old with a strong body?