Strength Training May Cut Death Risk and Protect Brain

Strength training in seniors over the age of 65 not only improves functional performance, mobility and reduces the risk of falls, it can cut the risk of dying from any cause.

A study of more than 30,000 adults over the age of 65 found that older adults who participated in strength training activities at least twice a week were 41 per cent less likely to die from heart disease and 19 per cent less likely to die from cancer than those who did no training. The study, published in the journal Preventative Medicine, used data on seniors collected from the U.S. National Health Interview Survey.

Strength training exercises can improve muscle mass resulting in better stamina, balance and functional ability.  It may also help improve diabetes, osteoporosis, lower back pain and obesity. And seniors don’t need a gym to reap the benefits of strength training; pushups, squats and abdominal crunches, which all use your own body weight, are good strengthening exercises and resistance bands provide an inexpensive way to train at home.

Light resistance training has also been linked with a benefit to the aging brain. Because weight training builds muscle,  it may help slow the natural decline of the aging brain. In a study of women between 65 and 75 out of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, researchers found those who lifted weights twice a week had less shrinkage in their brain’s white matter and fewer age-related holes or lesions.

In addition to weight training, the American Heart Associations recommends seniors also participate in at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity such as brisk waking.  That translates into 30 minutes a day, five days of the week. Always check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program.

For examples of exercises for strength training, tips on safety and proper form, visit the National Institute on Aging website at: .