The benefits of strength training for older women

As we age, our muscles lose density and strength. Strength training can help combat this loss of muscle mass by making us stronger. The benefits of strength training for older women are many; it helps them maintain their independence, improves balance, decreases the risk of falls and fractures, strengthens bones to prevent osteoporosis, improves cognitive function, and more! Sedentary adults lose up to 8% of their body’s muscle mass per decade, weight training has been shown to reduce muscle loss and augment resting metabolism.

Helps maintain bone density and prevent osteoporosis

Strength training protects us from osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition that causes our bones to become weak and brittle, which can lead to things like fractures or breaks in the bones. Our bones and muscles naturally weaken as we age, which increases the risk of falls and fractures. However, strength training can be used as a way to maintain bone density and counteract this natural phenomenon. Targeting specific muscles activates growth in the muscles at a cellular scale, maintaining their strength as you age.

If you would like some insight on your bone health, all of our Health MOT’s include tests on bone health alongside other key health factors and readings. 

Improves strength

Another benefit of strength training for older women is improved muscle function and increased strength! Resistance training increases muscular power, this is vital in elderly people to help them complete activities of daily living such as lifting heavy objects, climbing stairs, going for a walk etc. This can help older women stay active and maintain their independence, and can even help them do things that they may have been struggling with before.

Related: Ten foods to support muscle growth

Increases cognitive function

In addition to strengthening our muscles, strength training can also help strengthen the brain! Not only does aerobic exercise have a positive effect on cognition in older adults, but so can resistance/strength training as well. This is because it causes an increase of blood flow throughout the body which helps deliver more oxygen to the brain and exercising muscles. Additionally, the improved coordination and balance brought by strength training also aids brain function. Cardiovascular exercise increases the flow of blood to the optic nerve and retina, therefore overall eye health can be increased. This will allow women to continue driving and maintaining independence.

Decreases risk of falls and injuries 

Another benefit of strength training is the decreased risk of falls and injuries. Around 1/3 of people aged 65+ (and around half of people aged 80+) fall at least once a year, causing pain, injury, distress, loss of confidence, loss of independence and even death. Therefore, strengthening our muscles can help combat this by making us stronger, and improving our balance and coordination. A study on seniors showed that after only twelve weeks of resistance based training, the participants experienced a considerable decrease in their fear of falling.

Prevents weight gain and associated health issues

It’s no secret that as we age, our bodies change. We have a slower metabolism and less muscle mass, which means we’re more likely to gain weight with age. This can lead to an increased risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart disease. In fact, the risk of developing Type II Diabetes in middle age is directly related to body weight and waist circumference. The good news is that strength training has been shown to increase metabolism, which can help you maintain a healthy weight and stay healthy. Resistance training increases lean muscle tissue in the body, increasing one’s BMR, or calories burnt at rest. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn.

Improves mental health and wellbeing

Strength training has been shown to improve your wellbeing and mental health as well. In fact, a study has shown that individuals with mild to severe depression who engaged in resistance training two or more days each week saw considerable changes in their symptoms when compared to those who did not. Strength training can improve your wellbeing as it can help increase your self-esteem and boost your mood – which is linked to the increased endorphin levels in the body. The psychosocial element of exercise cannot be underestimated, new friends can be made, social skills will improve and cortisol levels (natural stress hormone) reduce with the outlet of a friendship group to exercise with.

Increases quality of life and overall health

Finally, one last benefit that older women see by strength training is improved physical function and an increased sense of wellbeing! In fact, it can improve your overall health and quality of life, which can help you live life to the fullest. Strength training is a low impact exercise that can be done by almost anyone and has many benefits for improving overall health. Exercise strengthens the heart and reduces cholesterol whilst lowering blood pressure- therefore relieving strain on the arteries which may lead to coronary heart disease, stroke or myocardial infarction.

It’s easy to get started!

All you need to get started is a pair of dumbbells or resistance bands. Resistance training can be done at home, in the gym, outdoors – wherever you feel comfortable. If you’re unsure where to begin with strength training for older women, why not refer to our women’s weight training guide? NEAT calories (Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) are calories expended outside of exercise, this could be walking the dog, taking stairs instead of the lift- even just getting up off the sofa! It really is a case of doing anything to get started. NEAT can burn up to 700 calories a day without you realising.