Exercise is medicine

01 Jan 0001

As we get older, we begin to lose muscle mass by approximately 1% to 5% every year. More importantly our muscle strength declines at a rate three-times faster. Studies have shown that the negative impact of this strength could lead to an increased risk of dementia. However, we need not accept this as our fate just yet. Is there anything we can do prevent, reverse or at least slow this age-related decline? The answer, yes there is a way to avoid the negative consequences of depleting strength and muscle loss!.

We have all heard of resistance training, or in other words, exercises done using weights, machines or simple exercise bands and tubes. Studies have shown that an eight week resistance program in the ageing and even sedentary population, has the potential to more than double the strength gains if done regularly.
So where does the benefit of strength training come from? First and foremost, it is anabolic in nature (meaning that it can stimulate muscle growth) making it the only type of exercise that can address the age-associated decline in muscle mass and strength. Moreover, this type of exercise is proving to be beneficial in improving cognitive function in adults who have complaints about their memory.

Other laboratories around the world have also used strength training to increase bone strength in postmenopausal women, help manage blood sugar levels in adults with type two diabetes, as well as to counteract the catabolic side effects of androgen-deprivation therapy for men with prostate cancer. Not to mention its benefits to sleep, depression and recovery from a heart attack. The Australian public health guidelines for physical activity recommend we take part in activities such as strength training two-to-three days per week.

The American College of Sports Medicine advises that everyone, including older adults do at least two days of progressive resistance training per week. So if you are looking to maximise the benefit from your time in the gym, or looking to make a positive change to your lifestyle, remember that there is medicine you can take. Try lifting some weights or doing other forms of strength training, three days a week, and importantly, make sure it feels moderate to hard. Not only will it add years to your life, but life to your years.