Resistance training increases longevity |

Recent studies suggest that resistance training can extend your life. An analysis published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that people who did 30 to 60 minutes of strength training each week had a 40% lower risk of premature death, a 46% lower risk of heart disease and a 28% lower risk of dying from cancer. This analysis of 16 studies involving nearly 480,000 people ages 18 to 98 proved the value of strength training as we age. Other studies have shown that combining strength training with aerobic activity can reduce the risk of death from cancer and all causes by 30%.

dr. Gabe Mirkin, author of The Healthy Heart Miracle, says we lose muscle as we age, but the loss can be mitigated through strength training.

“Between the ages of 40 to 50, the average person loses more than 8% of their muscle mass,” he says. “This loss increases to 15% per decade after age 75. Those who lose the most muscle tend to be the least active, exercise the least, and are the ones who die the earliest. Older people who lose the most muscle have four times more likely to become disabled, have difficulty walking and require walkers and other mechanical devices to help them walk.

Mirkin says losing muscle strength increases our risk of diabetes, heart attack and some cancers. A little-known fact is that the smaller the muscles in your arms, legs, and torso, the smaller and weaker the upper and lower chambers of your heart.

“Every muscle in your body is made up of thousands of muscle fibers, just like a rope is made up of many strands,” explains Mirkin. “Each muscle fiber is innervated by a single nerve fiber. With age you lose nerves, and if you lose a nerve that is attached to a muscle fiber, that muscle fiber is lost as well. You can’t stop this loss of muscle fibers with age, but you can certainly increase each muscle fiber and slow the loss of strength by training muscles against progressive resistance using strength training machines or by lifting weights.”

Always check with your healthcare practitioner before beginning any exercise program, says Mirkin, who offers helpful tips on weightlifting tips for middle-aged and seniors.

“Beginners should start with a resistance or weight they can comfortably lift and lower at least 10 times,” he said. “As soon as your exercise muscle becomes fatigued, burns, or feels tense, stop that exercise and move on to the next.”

He said older people can reduce their risk of injury by sticking to lighter weights and increasing the number of reps.

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