That fountain of youth may not be in the latest fad diet or a bottle of superjuice, but in a barbell loaded with heavy plates. Weight lifting isn’t just about bulging biceps. Contemporary research is beginning to show that regular weight-bearing activity can not only help you maintain muscle size and function, but positively influence several biomarkers of aging. A consistent regimen of moving iron may be the single best predictor of mortality, physical and mental well-being, and quality of life as you age.
Regardless of your overall health, everybody suffers from age-related sarcopenia, a progressive generalized loss of skeletal muscle mass and accompanying decline in muscle strength and performance with increasing age. A longitudinal study reported an average loss of 0.25kg/yr of lean muscle among participants aged 22–53, accelerating with each passing decade (1). Studies have shown that maintaining muscle through strength training is the most effective means of reducing sarcopenia and maintaining motor function as you age (2). Like many other conditions, sarcopenia often isn’t noticed until it is too late—when you slip and fall or begin having difficulty getting out of your chair. The loss in muscle mass not only affects the scale and the vision in the mirror, but is also important in maintaining the functional movement abilities that help you maintain independence. Consistent resistant training can slow declines in gait and balance, decrease risk for falls, and help you maintain energy and vitality regardless of how old your driver’s license says you are.