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Paige Waehner

Fit Facts: Lift weights or die

By April 2, 2014

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When you think of things that might save your life, 'more muscle mass' probably isn't on your top 10 list. Yet it may be more important than we think, even more important than how much we weigh or our BMI, which is the standard calculation we've used for ages, even though it isn't the best tool for measuring obesity.

I think most fitness experts already know what new research is proving: Body composition is a much better predictor of mortality and that the more muscle we have, the less likely we are to die prematurely. They discovered this by analyzing data collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which involved over 3,000 senior men and women. They measured body composition of the subjects using a bioelectrical impedance scale and found that all causes of mortality were lower in those with the most muscle mass.

Now, the study isn't perfect, of course. The authors point out that this data doesn't prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship, but that won't stop me from saying the following to my clients: If you don't lift weights, you will die.

I've always wanted to say that.

What that means is that, if you're not lifting weights, now is a really good time to start, especially if you're an older adult. And just in case you think you're too old for this, you're not - You can always gain muscle no matter how old you are and I have some resources that can help, if you don't know where to start.

The other thing I want to mention is how you measure body composition, which isn't exactly easy. The accuracy of most body fat measurement tools is always in question, including my own body fat calculator which only offers an educated guess. You can learn more about that in my article, What's Your Body Fat? which goes into details about the different ways you can measure body fat.

So, what do you think? Does this motivate you to lift weights or do you already have the motivation you need? Leave a comment and tell us what you think.

April 2, 2014 at 12:24 pm
(1) Natilee says:

Lifting weights improves bone density–especially important for women over 50. After five years of working with weights twice a week, I began adding density that shows on the annual scan–without any of those problematic medicines.

April 2, 2014 at 2:27 pm
(2) AMen says:

Lifting weights may improve quality of life yet, the bottom line is you’re going to die eventually.

April 4, 2014 at 3:34 pm
(3) Diana says:

I came to your same conclusion on my own.
I’ve been thinking about the best exercise for me, an older adult and
had concluded that I need to do some weight training. If your muscles are
strong, it’s much easier to get up and down out of furniture and the
floor and help maintain your balance so you don’t fall down. I think it helps
keep your joints in good shape and keeps them from being strained because of weak muscles. I do use an elipical machine, do some walking and I have added on some stretching.

April 7, 2014 at 7:07 pm
(4) Charles Frisinger says:

Have been doing weight workouts on a steady basis for 10 plus years and have seen benefits at home and elsewhere. I am able to do things at my age that, had I not been doing weights, I would not be able to do as easily.

April 7, 2014 at 8:00 pm
(5) RE says:

I have been lifting weights for years and last October it actually saved my life. I was 70 years old in 2013. I was tying off a ladder, 12 feet above the ground when it collapsed. I grabbed the tie off rope with my left hand and did my best to slow my fall. The rope burned through the leather glove, but I was able to slow the descent enough that I only suffered torn muscles in my midsection as I fell. The Doctor said, “If you weren’t in as good of shape as you are, you would be dead!!” No broken bones and now six months later I am back to lifting on a regular basis. I had a series of stretches and yoga moves that brought me through the rehab, but the weight training was the lifesaver. You are never too old to start and it just may save you.

April 7, 2014 at 9:26 pm
(6) Roger says:

I turn 70 in 2 days,I have been lifting weights since 1980s I bench 325 but now because of a brain aneurism I lift only 250. My aneurism is small,the artery is very strong because of being in good shape,I also referree soccer ,do a lot of running

April 8, 2014 at 3:23 am
(7) hussaina says:

I totally agree. Weight training is perhaps the key to maintaining muscle tone to hold the falling masses as we grow older! Great article!

April 8, 2014 at 7:52 am
(8) Pat C says:

Lifting has kept me in shape. Pilates and Yoga have strengthened my core and kept me flexible. I play volleyball with much younger people and throw my 63 yr old body around with no ill effect – despite 9 herniated disks, mild scoliosis, and a bad knee. I still do a full leg workout (squats, lunges and deads, etc) though at reduced weights and it helps my whole body. I believe that all of these activities make your body use its natural range of motion which prevents tightness and injury and preserves function. When I slack off training (and I do) my body feels it and I experience more joint pain not less. Not to mention that working out keeps me from getting cranky and moody. Aerobic activities are good but I notice that many people just do them and without a balance of other activities they will not keep you in functioning shape (i.e. walk, jump, play sports, move furniture, etc) and can set a person up for injury. Lifting 20 – 40 minutes 2-3x a week will preserve muscle mass.

April 8, 2014 at 5:12 pm
(9) Caryn says:

Nothing compares to weight training! Love it!!

April 9, 2014 at 12:05 am
(10) BlueCornMoon says:

I’ve been going to a gym & doing weights for decades & am in way better shape than most of my former classmates & social group members. At reunions I get up & dance with the young folks because my contemporaries are too tired & stiff & don’t want to move any more. Every year many of them gain more & more weight , have health problems & get more & more sedentary. TI’m 55 + & do power vinyasa yoga, step aerobics, zumba,cycling, kayaking, body pump weight training classes, cross country hiking, power walking, & Pilates. I have no knee,back or other joint problems & no sign of arthritis. I’m recently retired & am finding that I need to find a whole new set of friends in my age group who like the active life.

April 9, 2014 at 8:24 pm
(11) Dr. D says:

Lifting weights gives seniors stronger legs and balance so they are less likely to fall and can stay mobile. Another reason is if you are older and have the need for surgery, you want to be able to withstand the procedure. One rule to follow is the older you get the more you need to be active – weights, aerobics, stretching, and calisthenics keep the workouts mixed up. And don’t forget to get plenty of good quality protein to support muscle growth.

April 13, 2014 at 6:36 pm
(12) hot rod says:

weight training is an excellent way to ensure a healthy body as we age. i am 57years old and have incorporated weight training as part of my exercise program for the past 16years. the physical benefits can be researched from many different sources so i won’t comment as to what is easily looked up. each person should find out what works best for them. an added bonus of training with weights is theconfidence that comes along with working out! also extra energy and increased vitality. but you should know that it does not come overnight. put in the hard work, time and dedication and the benefits will come. a last word of advice, be smart in your workouts, at our age it takes longer to recover from injury.

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