Practicing strength training as we age is important because it helps us maintain muscle mass. When we lose muscle mass, we lose strength, gain weight and become frail. The good news is that strength training can reverse these effects, and quite quickly.
At age 30, people who are physically inactive lose anywhere from 3 to 5 percent of their total muscle mass per decade. After the age of 50, the rate of loss doubles. This is the biggest reason why elderly people become frail, and, because muscle dictates metabolism, is the basic cause of weight gain.
As muscle mass declines, due to inactivity, the body needs less fuel from food. Therefore, even if you don’t eat more, as you lose muscle, more and more of your calories will be stored as fat. On top of that, with age, your body becomes less efficient at converting the protein you eat into muscle tissue, which worsens the muscle-wasting process.
Loss of age-related muscle mass and strength is known as sarcopenia, and becomes a huge problem for elderly people who become frail to the point that they cannot get out of a chair or walk across a room without assistance. This also increases the risk of for falls and broken bones as a result of those falls. Getting in the habit of practicing strength training in your 20s or 30s is good, but no worries if your pass that mark. As I mentioned before, you can quickly reverse the effects of muscle loss with strength training. Studies of nursing home residents found that as little as two weeks of strength-building exercises, with weights or other resistance, can produce dramatic changes in their ability to function. Imagine what it can do for you!