Exercise in any form is good for you – but training with weights can be particularly beneficial in helping you age gracefully. As you age, you go through a process of sarcopenia where you naturally lose about 3-8% of muscle mass per decade after 30 years of age, with the rate of loss increasing with age. The good news is, although it’s not completely reversible, you can slow down the rate of decline by weight training.
Weight training and muscle mass
The notion of using weights to train has been commonly misconstrued as a bulking mechanism used by men to compete with the Michelin man. Yes, training with weights will cause you to bulk up, but it's important to note that these results occur over years of very frequent training with very heavy weights – not the kind of weight training I was referring to.
Numerous studies have indicated the effectiveness of resistance training in combating muscle weakness associated with aging. Resistance training, usually with weights or resistance bands, activates satellite cells in your muscles - stem cells in your muscles that are responsible for the production of new muscle cells.
With age, a greater percentage of these satellite cells become inactive. Just 2 days per week of resistance training with weights (anything from 2 to 10kg – your handbag can sometimes weigh more than this, believe me ladies, it’s not much), can help reactivate them and increase lean muscle mass.
Not only will this help you feel stronger, you’ll increase bone density that will maintain your upright posture and walk tall (not that small grannies that look like walking seahorses aren’t cute but you get what I mean).
Aside from improving your body’s structural integrity, increased muscle mass will also help maintain a relatively high metabolic rate and keep you burning calories, even when you’re resting. You’ll also sustain a healthy appetite, enabling you to nourish your body with more antioxidant rich foods to help fend off free radicals and maintain collagen production – plus any excuse to eat more food will win my vote!
The anti-aging effects of lean muscle mass for your skin
Your skin will also look healthy and younger as you will have less fatty tissue under your skin. Having a layer of fat under the skin all over the body as a protective measure is healthy and completely normal. The problem occurs when the fatty deposits become increasingly prevalent with underactivity usually associated with aging. These deposits begin to deteriorate (in a process known as lipoatrophy) and result in indentations and wrinkling of the skin above – though you may recognise it by its stage name – cellulite.
Although the appearance of cellulite is completely normal, it can be reduced if not prevented completely through resistance training. Continuing to train your muscles with weights will prevent excessive fatty deposits under your skin on your face and body, preventing the formation of wrinkling and indentations, making your skin look tighter and younger.
Strength training has also been associated with altering hormone production in favour of bringing back your skin’s oh so youthful glow. Using weights in your workouts has been found to increase the production of human growth hormone – usually used to help repair and regenerate cells such as fibroblasts found in the skin. Many studies have shown it to be effective in stimulating these cells to produce collagen and elastin as well as help strengthen the matrix between the cells to improve the skin’s integrity.
But that’s not all. Resistance training is also effective at reducing stress hormones such as cortisol that are responsible for collagen and elastin degradation and causing wrinkle formation.
No pain, no gain
And if you’re worried about any muscle pain that’s associated with weight training (because you’ll be able to feel your workout the next morning), supplement your diet with superfoods by whipping up a quick smoothie to help your muscles recover faster. And if that seems like too much work, add a teaspoon of Raw Beauty Lab's vegan collagen powder into a glass of water, stir and drink up! It’s packed with superfood nutrients that will help nourish your skin and body while providing you with a generous dose of vitamin c – a precursor to produce the small molecule carnitine that has been extensively researched for its role in improving muscle recovery.
I’m hoping this article was convincing enough for you to believe in the power of strength training for anti-aging. The more you are able to incorporate weight training into your workout routine, the more likely you are to see results. But even spending just 3 hours of quality time with your weights per week can work wonders for the strength of your muscles and the health of your skin.
When starting out, use lighter weights and work your way up. Try and work with a trainer if you can, or train in front of a mirror to ensure your form is correct – the last thing you want to do is injure yourself even more! I should mention at this point however, that if you have any injuries or underlying health issues, do consult your physician before reaching for the dumb bells.
If I’ve convinced you enough to get your sweatband on, then be sure to take a picture of yourself before you start and check in with yourself (and us) every couple of weeks to see your progress – it’s the best motivation you can get!