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Why We Should All Be Lifting Weights


Weight lifting squats 300x200 - Why We Should All Be Lifting Weights


I know you may not want to be a body builder (it’s awesome if you do, though), but that’s not what I’m talking about here!


Nor do you have to join a gym. Although gyms make it convenient since it’s all under one roof.


Nor buy super-fancy equipment. But some is necessary.


Want to know why I recommend lifting weights (a.k.a. “resistance training”) for people of all ages?


If you’re under the age of 50 it’s important to have a good muscle mass because you start to lose up to 1% muscle mass per year after that.  That’s up to 30% loss by the time you’re 80! That’s no bueno. Big time!


And you can lose your muscle strength even faster than 1% per year.


So, the more muscle mass you have before age 50, the better off you’ll be.


If you’re over the age of 50, the more you lift weights, the slower your rate of muscle loss will be.  Why settle for 1% loss, when you can keep your strength even longer?


So you can have more muscle AND slow down the rate of muscle loss by lifting weights at all ages.


Lifting weights is not just about muscle “mass” and “strength” though.  It’s a great way to maintain good health for just about everyone at any age, whether you’re athletic or not.


What exactly do I mean by “good health”?


Here are five reasons why you should lift weights



REASON #1 – Boost your metabolism


Yes!  We all want a nice, healthy metabolism, don’t we?  We want to have energy, and be able to burn the right amount of calories from our foods.


Guess what your muscles can do, even when they’re not working…burn calories!


And with healthy, strong muscles (like the kind you get from lifting weights), the more calories they burn.  Even while you sleep!


(Who doesn’t want this?)


Not only that, but less muscle mass is associated with increased fat stores, as well as increased inflammation. Inflammation increases the risk for many of the ‘ailments’ we associated and seen in older age. Muscular inflammation also drives insulin resistance, e.g. sets you up nicely to develop Type 2 diabetes (more on this below).


So, lifting weights can build up your muscles so they become more efficient metabolism-boosters, calorie burners. They will also store less fat and won’t promote inflammation.

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REASON #2 – Strength to do everyday things


Lifting your groceries.


Mowing your lawn.


Carrying things up from the basement.


Strong leg muscles allow you to walk easily, climb stairs, and reduces your risk for falling. Breaking a leg or hip is a killer. And strong leg muscles will help you to not need a walker or scooter. Strong legs will also free you from having to wait for an elevator to go 2 or 3 floors (even down!). Praise be!


All of these are everyday things that help us maintain our independence.  They’re things that we can do on our own without needing extra help when we have healthy muscles to rely on.


Lifting weights can help reduce our risk of becoming dependent on others for everyday tasks, because, hey, ‘I can do this myself – thank you very much.’


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REASON #3 – Managing your blood sugar




Insulin resistance.


You’ve heard of them, and they don’t sound healthy. And to be frank, they’re not.


When your body has trouble maintaining healthy amounts of sugar in your blood (not too much, and not too little), this can cause both short- and long-term issues.


Short-term issues can include things like fatigue and brain fog [hazy, fuzzy, lack of clarity].  And, of course, long-term issues are the potential for insulin resistance, or even diabetes. Both of which lead to eye damage, blood vessel damage, kidney disease, heart disease. Both are problematic.

Please don’t think that insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes, is just having blood sugar that’s ‘a little high’. You’ll want to stop that tout de suite before it becomes a runaway train.


And, you’ll never guess what can help your body maintain proper blood sugar control…healthy strong muscles!


They do this because they can store and burn excess blood sugar, therefore helping to keep blood sugar levels in just the right place. This is all because lifting weights helps muscle be super insulin resistant like when they were young!


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REASON #4 – Maintaining bone health


Do you know anyone who has broken a bone?


What about someone who broke their hip?


As you may know, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men end up with osteoporosis.  Bones that break easily, from a simple slip on soft grass or even carpet.


But did you also know that your bones can stay strong when your muscles stay strong?


When your muscles pull on the bones to move you around during weight lifting, the bones get the message that they’re important, and so your friendly bone-building cells actively keep making strong healthy bones. When you lift weights, it puts a lot of demand on the tendons that connects the muscles to the bone. The bone thinks ‘whoa, I need to make sure I’m strong enough to withstand this force’ and so it starts to lay down more magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus with the help of vitamins D and K2.


Ever Heard Of Vitamin K2? No? You’re Not Alone


This doesn’t happen so much when muscles aren’t pulling on them.  When the muscles get weaker from lack of use, the bones follow suit.


Not to mention the fact that weight lifting improves balance and reduces the risk of falling as I mentioned, both of which reduce the risk of breaking bones.


REASON #5 – Longer life, better quality of life


In a word: healthspan


If none of the above reasons resonate with you (but they probably do…), then this one will surely get your attention.


FACT: More muscle mass and strength as we age is directly associated with longer life AND better quality of life.




What do I mean by “quality of life”?  I mean lower rates of heart disease, cancer, mental disorders, etc.  I mean being healthy, independent, and keeping your mental sharpness.  All of those are huge factors when it comes to quality of life.


And lifting weights can help stave off all of those, so you can truly have a healthy, long life.


CAVEAT: in order to have good quality muscle mass and strength, you need to work it. Muscles only respond proportionately to the demands placed upon them. You may need to start with lighter weights, but to reap the benefits, you have to increase the load. Pictures are seniors lifting soup cans is fine if your goals is to lift a soup can. If you want to be stronger, you need to lift more.


Bottom line


You can (and probably should) lift weights to maintain good health.  And when I say “good health”, I mean things like maintaining your metabolism, strength to do everyday things, and keeping your blood sugar and bones healthy.  Not to mention living longer…and better.


So let’s do this, shall we?


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McLeod, M., Breen, L., Hamilton, D.L. & Philp, A. (2016). Live strong and prosper: the importance of skeletal muscle strength for healthy ageing. Biogerontology. 2016; 17: 497–510.


Perkin, O., McGuigan, P., Thompson, D., & Stokes, K. (2016). A reduced activity model: a relevant tool for the study of ageing muscle. Biogerontology. 2016; 17: 435–447.


Rudrappa, S.S., Wilkinson, D.J., Greenhaff, P.L., Smith, K., Idris, I. and Atherton, P.J. (2016). Human Skeletal Muscle Disuse Atrophy: Effects on Muscle Protein Synthesis, Breakdown, and Insulin Resistance—A Qualitative Review. Front Physiol. 2016; 7: 361.


Wullems, J.A., Verschueren, S.M.P., Degens, H., Morse, C.I & Onambélé, G.L. (2016). A review of the assessment and prevalence of sedentarism in older adults, its physiology/health impact and non-exercise mobility counter-measures. Biogerontology. 2016; 17: 547–565.


Xu, J., Lombardi, G., Jiao, W. & Banfi, G. Effects of Exercise on Bone Status in Female Subjects, from Young Girls to Postmenopausal Women: An Overview of Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses. Sports Med. 2016 Aug;46(8):1165-82.


Doug Cook RDN is a Toronto based integrative and functional nutritionist and dietitian with a focus on digestive, gut, and mental health.  Follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.