Fitness After 50: Quality of Life Benefits of Strength Training

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In this article I share several of the significant health benefits — both physical & mental — that resistance exercise offers us, beyond the strength & muscle-building gains we enjoy.

I draw on the large and growing body of evidence from the sports performance and science communities that shows how regular strength training positively impacts us in many ways.

Table of Contents

Resistance exercise improves our lives at any age

Diving into dozens of research studies in our National Library of Medicine, I found mountains of examples where strength training — in one way or another — improved the quality of life of people of all ages.

And throughout this article I also reference several medical publications discussing all the good that weightlifting & other forms of resistance training give us, no matter how old we are.

 

 

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Science resources included

As is my custom here on heydayDo, I will provide links to all of the relevant sports science & medical resources, clinical studies, and nutritional data used in this article.

 

 

What areas of benefits I discuss

Here on heydayDo I already have written quite a bit on how strength training improves our athletic performance, workout results, & our body’s aesthetics.

So for this article I wanted to focus in areas other than those.

I organized the topics into the outline you see below.

 

 

Physical benefits of strength training

  • improves fat burning
  • slows aging processes like bone loss & sarcopenia (muscle loss)
  • additional strength improves physical functions & thus quality of life
  • helps manage chronic conditions
  • helps manage chronic pain

 

Mental benefits of strength training

  • improves cognitive thinking skills
  • improves mood & attitude
  • improves self-esteem & body image
  • reduces anxiety & depression symptoms

 

 

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Strength training defined

I use the terms strength training and resistance training interchangeably throughout this & all my articles on the topic.

I do it in my day-to-day conversations as well, since to me they mean the same thing:

Strength training is a type of physical exercise specializing in the use of resistance to induce muscular contraction which builds the strength, anaerobic endurance, and size of skeletal muscles.” (Wikipedia)

 

The different forms of strength training

So weight lifting is one form of strength training that uses weights to create the resistance needed to build strength, endurance, etc.

Other forms of strength training include using rubber resistance bands, or using your own body weight to create that needed resistance (for example, while doing a push up).

And just to be clear – strength training is not bodybuilding.

Bodybuilding is a specific type of strength training, where the exercises are done to achieve aesthetic (i.e, physical beauty) results.

 

Why strength train?

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The simple answer to that question is that strength training can significantly improve your quality of life in many areas both physically & mentally.

I show an extensive list below.

As I mentioned at the beginning, there is a large body of evidence uncovered by the scientific research community proving that a wide variety of life-enhancing benefits is yours to receive if you establish & maintain a regular resistance training routine.

 

For example, here’s one systematic review where researchers analyzed nearly 20 independent scientific studies conducted regarding the beneficial effects of strength training.

They looked to verify (or not) statistically significant results in areas as diverse as:

  • physical function
  • bodily pain
  • emotional functioning
  • vitality
  • mental health

In their summary statements at the conclusion of their review, they stated that the

 

“evidence presented in this research clearly supports the promotion of resistance training in improving HRQoL in older adults.”

 

(HRQoL – is a clinical acronym that stands for the Health-Related Quality of Life.)

 

 

Improves our physical health quality of life

On the physical health side of things, I found significant results showing benefits in 5 main topic areas.

All of these are physical benefits that are obtained due to an increase in muscle mass, thanks to a resistance training program of one kind or another.

Since there were a few dozen research studies in this physical benefits group, I ended up with a number of related sub-topics for each of those 5 main areas.

Here are the main physical benefit topics and their subs:

 

Strength training burns fat

  • Increased muscle mass equals more calorie burn
  • You burn more body fat, especially belly fat
  • Strength training helps lose weight & fight obesity

 

Strength training can slow aging processes

  • Build back lost muscle due to aging (sarcopenia)
  • Strengthen bones and fight osteopenia & osteoporosis

 

Resistance training makes you stronger

  • Why is that important? It improves your quality of life
  • Improves your balance, stability, & coordination
  • Being stronger helps prevent injuries

 

Strength training can help manage chronic conditions

  • Resistance training can lower your blood pressure
  • Reduce your risk of diabetes
  • Strength training improves your cholesterol levels

 

Resistance training helps manage chronic pain

  • Ease pain from arthritis & fibromyalgia
  • Reduce low back pain

 

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Improves our mental health quality of life too

I know strength training boosts my positive outlook & mood, so I wasn’t too surprised that science research has determined the same thing.

However, I was fascinated to discover the range of psychological effect that resistance training has.

The clinical evidence shows improvements to cognitive thinking, mood, self-esteem, anxiety, & more.

Once again there were many research studies, each testing just one or two specific areas of mental health for any significant beneficial effect.

I grouped them all under the one generic topic, Mental Health Benefits.

 

 

Physical benefits of increased muscle mass

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In this section I individually take a look at each of the positive effects that strength training has on your body.

In an optimal resistance training program, over time you gradually increase the amount of resistance you’re using in your exercises.

(This protocol is known as progressive resistance training.)

 

The result is a gradual increase in your muscle mass, and this in turn starts a wonderful domino effect of changes in your body.

And so, here now are the positive health changes that benefit the quality of this life that you have.

 

Strength training burns fat

When many people finally decide to do something about being overweight, the first thing they think of is going on some kind of diet.

Or maybe logging hours on a treadmill or other cardio fitness machine, or trying to go out & jog.

However, it’s been proven that over time, a consistent strength training program is as effective or more effective at losing weight than diet alone, or an aerobic exercise plan alone as well.

 

Increased muscle mass equals more calorie burn

This study was conducted by scientists & doctors from Virginia Tech, Quincy College (MA), and New England Baptist Hospital.

The researchers determined that resistance training’s effect of increasing muscle mass caused more calories to be burned while the participants were at rest (that is, not exercising).

They concluded that

 

“more frequent weekly training sessions (3x/week) were associated with greater improvements in body fat percent, fat weight, and lean weight.”

 

This phenomenon of burning more calories while at rest is far from an isolated incident.

Similar clinical results were documented here as well as a study here, where they showed how strength training workouts elevate calorie burn for up to 72 hours following exercise.

And the esteemed Mayo Clinic concurs as well.

 

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Burn more body fat, especially belly fat

Belly fat is not only unhealthy-looking, it is unhealthy period.

Excess belly fat is often an indicator that the person also has an excess of visceral fat, which carries with it a number of very serious health risks.

 

Never fear, strength training is here

Multiple clinical research studies have shown that resistance training has been effective in reducing both visceral fat & belly fat.

This study showed that older women participating in a 25-week strength training program lost “a significant amount” of both visceral fat & belly fat.

And here, older men exercising twice weekly in a progressive resistance program for 16 weeks enjoyed similar results, where

“visceral and subcutaneous abdominal fat (belly fat) decreased significantly by 10.3% and by 11.2% respectively”.

 

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Strength training helps lose weight & fight obesity

With the results I’ve shown so far, it’s no surprise to learn that strength training is an effective way to lose weight.

This is especially important news for people who are obese, or who are dangerously close to becoming obese.

Obesity brings with it a number of deadly and/or life-damaging effects.

Heart disease, stroke, kidney malfunction, chronic high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes are common problems for obese people.

On top of that, each of these diseases all cause their own set of additional health problems.

 

Belly fat reduced in obese people

At the Institute for Sports Medicine in Austria, a clinical trial tested the use of strength training with obese people.

They found that the strength training program caused a loss of weight of both visceral fat & belly fat.

 

Blood sugar levels improved with resistance training

Interestingly, the resistance training also improved their blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels, two common problem areas for obese people.

The researchers concluded that

“decreasing known major risk factors for metabolic syndromes, resistance training is recommended in the management of obesity and metabolic disorders.”

 

And resistance training was again proven to be an effective therapy in weight-loss programs for severely overweight people in this study of 25-44 year old obese women, published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

These weight-loss results are due to strength training’s effect of boosting our resting metabolism, so our bodies continue to burn calories while we’re not exercising…which is most of the time if you think about it.

 

 

Strength training can slow aging processes

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Aging, ugh.

I’ll remain polite and just say that the effects of aging are not my favorite part of getting older and leave it at that.

I got into strength training when I was 23.

And I mean really into it: nutrition-wise, progressive resistance training-wise, really paying attention to my body’s signals as I pushed my fitness level, all that.

I’ve been paying attention to my body ever since, and I’m now over 60 as I type this.

So that’s 38 years of “listening to my body”, as that worn-out wellness industry cliché goes.

And let me tell you that – as far as my body goes – the song did not remain the same.

 

Uphill battle as things go downhill

The inevitable decline due to the aging process is very noticeable to me, what with me paying attention and all. 😄

Loss of strength, flexibility, aches & pains from old injuries, slow recoveries after working out, lower energy levels…I’ve experienced it.

And I’ve seen these aging symptoms in everyone I know who’s pushing 50 or older.

 

Strength training to the rescue

Thank goodness for resistance training.

I use it as part of my fight against the decaying effects of aging, and it helps me try and be as strong, limber, & tenacious as I can be.

If I didn’t do strength & cardio training, yoga, and stay physically active in general, I can only wonder how dilapidated I’d be.

Scary stuff.

 

I also take naps, they’re good for my battle plan too. Love them naps. 

 

So this next section shows how strength training helps us duke it out with the effects of aging in two main areas – muscle loss and bone loss.

 

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Build back our muscle, lost due to aging

One of the research areas on “resistance training vs. aging” where I found a number of legitimate clinical studies showing beneficial effects was sarcopenia.

If the word is new to you, sarcopenia is the loss of muscle simply due to getting older.

 

Muscle loss due to aging starts in our 30s

In fact, science has shown that adults start experiencing muscle loss in their 30s.

Research has also shown that people who are inactive and don’t exercise lose their muscle much more rapidly than physically active people.

 

Some may say “whatever man, that’s just getting old…we all get old and things slow down”.

OK, thanks for your input. You can sit down now…oh never mind, you already are.

Allowing sarcopenia to just go its own natural way without a fight, you’ll soon be one of the people who are 230% more likely to suffer fractures when you fall.

 

Sarcopenia weakens your supporting muscles & steals some mobility too.

 

How to reverse the effects of age-related muscle loss

However all is not lost, and there is good news on dealing with sarcopenia as we age.

A consistent strength training program has been repeatedly proven to reverse some of your muscle loss due to aging.

 

You’re never too old

And don’t think for a minute you’re too old to rebuild lost muscle; you’re not.

In that Harvard Medical article on preserving your muscle mass, they cite a meta-review of 49 clinical studies that shows older people can indeed build back lost muscle.

And you can significantly slow the aging process’ inevitable effect on your muscles simply by continuing to strength train as you get older.

 

Fight muscle loss with progressive resistance training

Specifically, the best way to wage the war on sarcopenia if you’re older is to use progressive resistance training methods (which is how I’ve lifted since forever).

(And eat a lot of clean protein, your muscles will respond to your exercising much better if you do. I do that too.)

 

If you’re unfamiliar with the term progressive resistance training, it means you continue to increase the amount of resistance you use in your workout.

You do this very gradually over time as you get stronger.

In other words, don’t just do the same thing you did 3 weeks ago, or heaven forbid, 2 months ago.

If you regularly work out in this way, you will get stronger.

Continue to challenge your muscles and your metabolism will work wonders for you.

 

 

Strengthen bones, fight osteoporosis

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Another aging condition where a ton of research has been conducted is bone loss.

Like age-related muscle loss, bone loss begins in your 30s.

Also like sarcopenia: if you’re not physically active you’re much more likely to have a higher rate of bone loss than people who exercise.

People with high rates of bone loss are susceptible to the two main bone diseases, osteopenia and its more severe sibling, osteoporosis.

 

Rebuild bone density with resistance training

Fortunately – and also similar to muscle loss – your natural rate of bone loss can be slowed and in some cases, you can rebuild some of your lost bone density.

Multiple studies confirm that resistance training is effective at both preserving your bone density and increasing it too.

 

Strength training makes you stronger

That’s not really a bold revelation, it’s more like a “No duh”.

I mean, the word ‘strong’ is just the adjective of the word ‘strength’. So why overstate the obvious?

It’s to draw attention to the basic fact that simply getting stronger has HRQoL (Health-Related Quality of Life) benefits too.

Meaning, the quality of your day-to-day life improves simply because you’re stronger, as I’ll show you next.

 

Why are stronger muscles important?

Keeping yourself physically strong as you age does you a world of good.

The bottom line is that your quality of life is better than what it would be if you simply let the aging process take its natural toll on you.

To verify this, all you need to do is look at normal, everyday activities.

 

Simply ask yourself if you would be better off as a weaker low-energy version of you or a stronger, more energetic ‘you’ when it comes to:

  • opening a jar of pickles
  • playing outdoors with your kids or grandkids
  • horsing around in the pool
  • standing on a ladder to change a light bulb
  • rearranging furniture
  • carrying a few bags of groceries from your car into your home
  • climbing a few flights of stairs
  • taking a vacation somewhere
  • managing luggage through the airport on foot
  • taking a long walking tour
  • playing casual sports
  • and so on…

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Being strong enough to easily do things like those on that list is important for a few reasons, and the two that come to my mind first are:

 

1. You live a fuller life

You are able to participate in more activities and enjoy more experiences.

Having more energy & strength to do both fun & functional things is positive.

Being limited due to being too weak or tired to do things is not a positive, and your outlook on your life might not be so great.

 

2. You maintain a high degree of self-reliance

Being strong enough to take care of your personal life’s daily to-do lists yourself is a positive.

You’ll feel empowered and your attitude will perk up; this has been proven.

Psychological studies I’ll talk about a little later have verified the importance of what they call functional independence in older people.

 

 Being strong & self-reliant is an antidote for depression symptoms in seniors.

 

If you’re weak, frail, or in poor health you’ll be increasingly dependent on other people that you’ll need to either hire or ask a lot of favors from.

That will not boost your mood or leave you feeling empowered.

Next up are a couple of other HRQoL areas where clinical research has tested the effect resistance training has on older adults.

And how in turn the basic benefit of being stronger provided quality of life benefits to the daily lives of those stronger seniors.

 

 

Strength improves balance, stability, & coordination

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It makes sense that having stronger muscles in your legs and core will provide much more security in your ability to stand, move, and change body positions easily throughout the day.

I found studies that tested balance & stability improvements in people who were considered at risk for falling injuries (due to their advanced bone & muscle loss).

The participants who were put on a resistance training program in this 6-month trial conducted at the University of British Columbia improved their balance by 30% compared to the control group who didn’t strength train.

I mention another study with even more robust results in the next section on strength training & injury prevention.

 

Being stronger helps prevent injuries

Earlier in the article I discussed how age-related loss in muscle greatly increases the risk of falling & sustaining fractures as a result.

I also shared research on age-related bone loss and how, if left unchecked, progressive bone loss can cause your bones to become brittle & frail (osteopenia & osteoporosis) – and very easily broken.

I’m sure you can see how the combination of weak stabilizing muscles & brittle bones puts someone at risk for serious injury.

 

It’s important to note that science has shown that an older person falling isn’t rare: nearly a third of people over 65 fall once a year, and half of those fall much more often than that.

Also worth mentioning is that clinical research has determined that a senior falling isn’t because of random bad luck.

Physical limitations due to muscle weakness & balance are the prime suspects.

 

Strength training significantly reduces falling rate

Several research studies have determined that strength training provided great benefit to older people who were at-risk for falling and subsequent sustaining of broken bones.

That British Columbia study I mentioned in the previous section on stability & balance saw the fall rate of their strength training participants drop by nearly a third.

And this research trial conducted at a retirement community over a 12-month period noted a 40% reduction in fall rate for its participants who were put on a resistance training program.

 

Strength training can help chronic conditions

In this section, we’ll look at strength training’s positive effects on 3 common & serious health issues: hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, & high cholesterol.

These affect millions of Americans and are considered chronic conditions due to their persistent & long-lasting nature.

 

Resistance training can lower your blood pressure

One out of every three American adults has hypertension, AKA high blood pressure.

Many people know they have high blood pressure but don’t bother to seek treatment for it because they aren’t experiencing any serious symptoms.

Yet.

That’s a bad strategy, because it is a known medical fact that hypertension can do its damage to you unnoticed for years.

When a severe health crisis suddenly affects someone with high blood pressure, it’s likely caused by the damage done by hypertension over the period of time it was ignored.

Over time, untreated high blood pressure will damage your heart, your brain, your kidneys, your arteries, your eyes, and your sexual functioning.

A final sobering thought is this: half of all people who don’t treat their high blood pressure will die of heart disease due to poor blood flow, another ⅓ of the other people with high blood pressure will die from a stroke.

 

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Solutions to managing high blood pressure

Simple lifestyle changes go a long way towards lowering high blood pressure:

  • A lean, clean diet
  • No smoking
  • Not much alcohol
  • Lots of exercise

Resistance training can be added to that list, as over two dozen scientific studies have proven it’s effective at lowering blood pressure levels.

 

Reduce your risk of diabetes

Another serious health condition that resistance training can significantly provide benefit for is diabetes.

Having diabetes greatly increases a person’s risk for a whole slew of bad things:

  • heart disease
  • nerve damage
  • kidney damage
  • eye damage
  • hearing damage
  • skin bacteria & fungal infections
  • Alzheimer’s disease

A whopping 114 million Americans have either diabetes (30 million) or pre-diabetes (84 million).

Pre-diabetes is a condition that will turn into diabetes in 5 years if not treated.

 

Strength training fights diabetes

Earlier I showed how resistance training boosts our metabolism by way of increasing our muscle mass.

It is this metabolic energizing that can help fight diabetes too, since diabetes is a metabolic disorder.

No surprise then that strength training programs were put to the test in diabetes research trials.

These studies were looking into ways to improve the metabolism of at-risk patients suffering from disorders like diabetes.

Here, researchers concluded

“Based on our meta-analysis, Resistance Training has a clinically and statistically significant effect on metabolic syndrome risk factors…and therefore should be recommended in the management of type 2 diabetes and metabolic disorders.”

 

In this research review, the author noted that strength training can

“assist prevention and management of type 2 diabetes by decreasing visceral fat, reducing HbA1c (our blood sugar level), increasing the density of glucose transporter type 4, and improving insulin sensitivity.”

 

And here’s a study that compared the metabolic effects of a strength training routine vs. a treadmill aerobic program:

“CONCLUSION: Ten weeks of resistance exercises were associated with a significantly better glycemic control in adults with type 2 diabetes compared to treadmill exercise.”

 

Strength training improves your cholesterol levels

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The final chronic condition that strength training can help someone deal with is high cholesterol.

By “high cholesterol” I mean of course high “bad” cholesterol.

 

(Non-scientific brains like mine get concepts like “good & bad” a little easier than “High-density lipoprotein-HDL & Low-density lipoprotein-LDL”. The LDL is the bad one, by the way…)

 

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) states that over 102 million Americans have unhealthy cholesterol levels, and more than 35 million of these have cholesterol levels high enough to put them at high risk for heart disease.

As with diabetes, simple & easy lifestyle changes (clean diet & lots of exercise) will have a positive effect on your cholesterol level.

And similarly as well, resistance training has been proven to both lower the bad LDL cholesterol and raise the good HDL one.

By a decent amount too, I might add.

That fact was noted in this Position Stand paper released by the American College of Sports Medicine:

 

“Serum cholesterol and triglycerides are also influenced by resistance training…(which) can increase HDL cholesterol by 8%-21%, decrease LDL cholesterol by 13%-23%, and reduce triglyceride levels by 11%-18%.” 

 

Here, healthy women with normal cholesterol levels performed a strength training program for 5 months.

After final measurements researchers concluded that

 

“resistance exercise training was associated with significant decreases in serum total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations.”

 

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Resistance training & pain management

Arthritis, fibromyalgia, & low back pain are three potentially debilitating (and always a drag to deal with) chronic conditions that affect millions of people.

Unfortunately, strength training can’t cure them.

Still, research has demonstrated the positive effects a structured resistance program can have on lessening the pain & quality of life-stealing effects of these chronic conditions.

I first came across the evidence that strength training could help deal with pain in this article published in the periodical Current Sports Medicine Reports, put out by the American College of Sports Medicine.

 

Weightlifting helps arthritis & fibromyalgia pain

Then I found where the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine published a meta-review titled “The Mental Health Benefits of Strength Training”.

It gathered dozens of clinical research studies that had all determined that resistance training programs provided mental health benefits of one kind or another.

One of the broader areas where strength training was effective was pain.

The reviewers then broke out those pain studies according to the type of pain that was reduced.

 

Here are a few of the researchers’ comments:

...evidence is provided that the control of pain may be a dominant mechanism by which strengthening exercise produces beneficial effects for the patient with osteoarthritis.”

 

“Strength training is safe and effective in treating people with fibromyalgia.

“Research demonstrates that resistance exercise training has profound effects on the musculoskeletal system…and prevents osteoporosis, sarcopenia, lower-back pain, and other disabilities.”

 

“Resistance training may be effective for reducing low back pain and easing discomfort associated with arthritis and fibromyalgia.”

 

And from two of the leading medical institutions in the country:

“If you have arthritis, strength training can be as effective as medication in decreasing arthritis pain.”( Arthritis.org)

“Strength training can reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions such as arthritis & back pain.” (Mayo Clinic)

 

Strength training improves your mental health

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This section expands my article’s discussion of resistance training’s positive effects onto our mind’s health-related quality of life.

Clinical researchers in the field of psychology have amassed quite a bit of evidence on strength training’s ability to provide mental health benefits.

They’ve observed significant improvements in their participants’ self-esteem, sense of well-being, thinking skills, and quality of sleep.

Strength training has also boosted people’s confidence and mood while reducing their anxiety & depression levels.

 

Boost self-esteem, confidence, & mood

Several studies have tested whether resistance training can improve our mental health-related quality of life, specifically measuring qualities like self-esteem, body image, self-confidence, and our sense of well-being.

Here’s a look at a few findings.

In this study with women,

the weight training subjects showed significant gains in self-esteem as compared to the controls.”

 

Resistance exercise training was introduced to some of the breast cancer patients here, while the control group received only the standard hospital care. Researchers said

“Resistance exercise was superior to usual care for improving self-esteem”.

 

As your body changes, so does your self-image

Here, researchers found that obese people who performed resistance training experienced “reduced depressive symptoms”, “improved body image”, and “increases in global self-esteem”.

 

The psychological benefits of yoga and strength training were tested in this study of inactive people. The investigators stated

“Significant improvements were found in terms of all outcome measures”, and that  “the results indicated that hatha yoga and resistance exercise had positive effects on mental health and well-being in sedentary adults.”

 

They also noted that “resistance exercise training more improved body image.

 

 

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Strength training lowers anxiety

Mental health research has also studied strength training’s effect on anxiety.

Here, scientists concluded that the “moderate intensity resistance training group significantly reduced trait anxiety compared to the control group.”

A review of over a dozen research studies on strength training’s beneficial effect on anxiety reported some key findings.

The authors write:

 

“A growing body of literature has identified anxiolytic effects of resistance exercise in human populations after both single-bout sessions and long-term training.”

 

Anxiolytic is a type of drug used to reduce anxiety.

They’re saying they see the same anxiety-reducing effect in strength training as they do in the prescription drugs usually taken.

 

They further state:

 

“This research has shown that resistance training at a low-to-moderate intensity produces the most reliable and robust decreases in anxiety. These findings provide support for the use of resistance exercise in the clinical management of anxiety.”

 

Strength training improves your cognitive thinking

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As the Mayo Clinic succinctly puts it, “our brains change as we get older”.

Unfortunately, some of those changes are due to the degrading of our mental faculties.

Here are a few examples of what Mayo calls mild cognitive impairment:

  • loss of memory of past experiences
  • increased difficulty understanding in-depth instructions & concepts
  • forgetfulness of current events in your life, to-do’s, important dates, etc.
  • repeating the same comment word for word about a particular subject any time it comes up
  • increasing difficulty making decisions
  • forgetting that you’d already told someone that exact thing recently – often more than once

 

Mayo says

“Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is the stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more serious decline of dementia.”

 

So, it appears that some cognitive decline is to be expected, and that it is another normal function of aging that we get to deal with (oh joy).

But as many of us have witnessed in others, sometimes that decline is not mild.

And many people will experience an even more severe loss of their brain power as they get older.

 

Balm of Gilead or snake oil?

The nootropic (brain) supplement industry sells billions of dollars’ worth of untested & unproven pills to people looking for a mental edge of one sort or another. 

Just think: resistance training exercise doesn’t cost anything and its been proven in a number of legitimate research trials to be an effective brain booster. 

 

Resistance training to the rescue (again)

Thankfully, strength training has once again proven itself in research trials to be our benefactor — this time to provide us older adults with significant improvements in cognitive function.

A meta-analysis of 18 research studies on mental processing was conducted at the University of Illinois Dept. of Psychology. From the authors:

“Most importantly, fitness training was found to have robust but selective benefits for cognition, with the largest fitness-induced benefits occurring for executive-control processes.” 

 

Executive control processes is the term for the skills in your brain that manage and control your thinking processes.

This includes memory, reasoning, attention, problem solving, social inhibition, planning, and others.

The SMART study (Study of Mental and Resistance Training) examined the effects of resistance training over a 6-month period on people with MCI (mild cognitive impairment).

The researchers concluded

“Resistance training significantly improved global cognitive function, with maintenance of executive and global benefits over 18 months.”

 

Both of these studies here & here also supported the findings that thinking skills in seniors benefitted from resistance training.

 

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Strength training helps your memory

And here is scientific evidence that resistance training can strengthen your memory as you get older, as well as your muscles.

The researchers in this clinical trial wrote

 

“The results suggest that strength training can benefit memory among older adults, especially when using higher resistance levels.”

 

Older people with impaired memories participated in this resistance training study.

Scientists noted “a significant increase” in the standardized memory scores of the participants, and concluded

 

“These results indicate that supervised resistance exercises can improve memory performance in sedentary elderly individuals with prior memory compromise.”

 

So now that we’re armed with the facts, let’s not forget to work out. 😜

 

Resistance training improves your quality of sleep

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Poor sleep quality is related to a number of health problems, both as a cause and as a symptom.

Sufficient hours of high quality sleep is therefore an essential part of the healthy person’s life.

Strength training (& regular exercise in general) have been shown to improve the quality of sleep in several research trials.

Here, older women were put on a combined resistance & aerobic training program.

Researchers concluded “The results showed a significant improvement in quality of sleep in healthy elderly women.”

 

And in this study, clinicians noted

“Exercise training improves sleep quality in middle-aged and older adults with sleep problems…and significantly reduced medication use.”

 

Sleep improved for people with fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia sufferers often have poor sleep quality due to the pain & discomfort of the disease.

In this study, researchers observed a direct relationship between pain intensity & poor sleep quality: “when pain intensity increased…sleep quality worsened.”

 

Participants put on a strength training program noticeably improved their sleep, with the scientists noting

“Strength training is safe and effective in treating people with fibromyalgia, and a significant decrease in sleep disturbances occurs after 8 wks of intervention.”

 

Sum total of all these benefits is a happier you

So we see how resistance exercise can improve your mental health quality of life.

More self-esteem & self-confidence.

Better sleep, a better mood, & a more positive attitude with less anxiety.

Who wouldn’t want to pop that happy pill?

 

Via strength training, energy levels increase from your metabolism boost & improved health.

You can burn your belly fat if you need to, lose weight if you need to, and improve your blood pressure, blood sugar, & cholesterol levels if you need to.

Exercise endorphins kick in too, lifting your spirit and helping you manage any chronic pain you might have as well.

And a better version of you emerges thanks to your commitment to a resistance training program.

 

It’s never too late to start strength training

I’d like to leave you with a couple of things to consider before I conclude this overview on the benefits of strength training.

First off, you can start right now.

You don’t need to “get” to a certain level of knowledge or expertise before you begin. Just start.

(Make sure your doctor is cool with it and clears you for exercise if you think your health is in question.)

 

You can enjoy these benefits at any age

In my article here, I cite over 50 research studies.

And several of them were actually meta-review studies, meaning that they were citing anywhere from 10-50 additional studies themselves.

That’s a lot of clinical research trials on strength training.

 

And in most of them, the participating subjects were older people.

 

So that adds up to a lot of seniors performing resistance training and receiving benefits from it.

If they’re not too old, you’re not too old.

 

 

Carpe Diem

I hope my research into the sports science & medical research studies conducted on the benefits of strength training is useful to you, and a positive boost for you as well.

I wish you well on your fitness journey; let’s go.

– greg

July 2020

 

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About heydayDo

heydayDo author Greg Simon
Hi I’m Greg Simon. Fitness training & nutrition researching since 1982. Organic food & wine grower. Surfer. Congenital heart disease survivor (so far). Read more…
heydayDo is my “fitness after 50” website that’s about embracing the physically active lifestyle as we get older.
 
I write about the fitness and health research I’ve found concerning the quality of life benefits that exercise and good nutrition provide.
 
When I get curious about something, I’ll dig into whatever sports science & medical facts there are on the topic to learn what’s real & what’s only hype. I also post my experiences product-testing & evaluating home gym equipment & fitness supplements.
 
 It’s an information-sharing, personal opinion blog of mine.
 
So if you’re looking for medical or nutritional advice, please consult with your doctor or health professional for that, since heydayDo does not provide medical advice.