Strength training can roll back the years for older people

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According to an interesting new study on the emotional impacts of weight training, weight training in the elderly can not only build strength and muscle mass, but also motivation and self-confidence, potentially prompting them to continue exercising. exercise.

The results suggest that people who fear they are too old or unfit to start resistance training may need to give it a try, to see how their body and mind respond.

We already have plenty of evidence, of course, that weight training can help us age well. In our early 40s, most of us lose muscle mass, at a rate of about 5% per decade, this decline often precipitating a long slide into frailty and addiction. But older people who lift weights can slow or reverse that descent, studies show. In several experiments, older people who start lifting weights typically gain muscle mass and strength, along with better mobility, mental sharpness, and metabolic health.

Resistance training

As part of a larger study on bodybuilding and the elderly, scientists at the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland recently decided to see if they could find out how weight training changes the minds as well as the musculature of people who had not done so before.

To get started, they turned to 81 older men and women who were in their health database and who had agreed to start resistance training. These volunteers were all between 65 and 75 years old and, like many Finns, were healthy and physically active. But they weren’t lifting weights.

For the full study, they began a bi-weekly supervised full-body resistance training program in college to familiarize participants with proper technique and develop a strength base.

After three months, the group was randomly assigned to continue training one, two or three times per week, while a separate, untrained group served as the control. Periodically, the researchers checked the strength, fitness, and metabolic health of the volunteers, as well as their attitudes towards workouts, including whether they found them intimidating or inviting and how difficult it was for the volunteers. to find the time and resolve to introduce himself.

This routine lasted for six months, by which time almost all people lifting weights had gained strength and improved various markers of their health, even though they had only lifted once a week.

But then, after months of supervised lifting, users suddenly found themselves alone. The researchers explained that they could no longer access university facilities and provided them with information on low-cost and suitable gymnasiums in the area. But any further training would be of their own accord. The researchers waited six months, then contacted the volunteers to see who was still lifting and how often. They repeated these interviews after another six months.

They found, to their surprise, that a year after the formal study ended, nearly half of the volunteers were still lifting weights at least once a week. “We had estimated a rate of 30 percent,” said Tiia Kekalainen, a project researcher at Jyvaskyla University who led the psychological study with lead author Simon Walker and others.

Renewed confidence

Also surprisingly, the researchers found little direct correlation between muscle and motivation. The people who gained the most strength or muscle mass during the study were not necessarily the most likely to stick with training. Instead, they are the ones who feel the most proficient in the gym. While a person’s self-efficacy, which is a measure of confidence, increased significantly over the course of the study, it generally continued to rise.

Indeed, said Kekalainen, people who found they enjoyed and felt able to finish a weight training session then sought out and joined a new gym and showed up for workouts, although they did not. receive more nudges from seekers or encouragement and companionship from them. fellow volunteers. “They discovered that resistance training is their cup of tea,” Kekalainen said.

Most of them also told researchers that strength training gave them confidence in their physical abilities beyond the gym. “They could do things that they thought they couldn’t do before,” she said.

Of course, about half of the volunteers told researchers that “they preferred other types of exercise,” Kekalainen said, and these men and women, for the most part, were no longer lifting weights.

Kekalainen and his colleagues hope in future studies to explore the issues of what attracted some people to lifting and left others uninspired, and how strength training routines could be structured to appeal to skeptics.

For now, people interested in starting to lift weights should look for specialist beginner classes or trainers and learn how to lift weights safely. But the main lesson from the study, she said, is that in order to find out what you think about weight training, you need to work out. – New York Times

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