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Fighting Flab When You're Over 40

Written by Stu Watson

Refreshing advice on successfully aging through weight training. You can get buffed at any age!middle age weight training

Riding a Razor scooter or wearing a tubetop won't do nearly as much as lifting weights to improve your health and appearance as you age.

This is what Robert Staron tells me. Like me, Staron is 50, began lifting weights as teenager, and swears by its benefits.
 
That's where we part company. Staron, you see, is a scientist. His belief in the benefits of weight lifting is based on more than what he sees in the mirror.
 
With Ohio University colleagues, Staron completed a study earlier this year that shows the benefits of weight training for anyone, at any age.
 
Research published recently in The Journal of Gerontology focused on people from age 65 to 75. They were in good health, of average build, and hadn't done any sort of regular exercise in the previous six months.
 
The study focused on the quadriceps femoris muscle, the big muscle at the front of the thigh. First, participants were tested for maximum strength (what they could lift just one time) and for stamina (how many times they could lift 60 percent of their maximum).
 
Then they went to work. For 16 weeks, they did three different exercises, two days a week. They did half squats, leg presses and leg extensions.
 
Move over Hans und Franz. Tested again, all had shown maximum strength gains of 50 to 80 percent. They also made significant increases in muscle mass.
 
This is good news because beginning in our late 20s, we start to lose muscle mass until, if we live to age 90, we have lost about 50 percent of what we had as a buff young thing.
 
One study back in 1991 showed that 65 percent of women aged 75 to 84 could not lift 10 pounds. That's a small sack of sugar folks. 
 
"The question is, how much of that is due to the natural process of aging?" asks Staron. "We may have problems with our circulation, or neurological problems, but what our research shows is that a good bit of it is related to inactivity."
 
Sit on your duff; lose your buff.
 
Study participants began with less muscle mass because of disuse. At the end of the study, their muscle mass was again equal to that of younger people who had done no training. "They never leveled off," says Staron. "They kept going up. We might have seen even greater benefits if we had continued the study."
 
Research showed that the study participants also gained aerobic capacity and stamina, and showed higher levels of good cholesterol vs. bad cholesterol.
 
"What we are finding is that even the very frail elderly are able to benefit greatly," asserts Staron. "The level at which they are able to train is very high, similar to college-age individuals."
 
What? You heard right. Exercise programs that treat the older person as someone incapable of serious training do a disservice, says Staron.
 
"They need to stress their body systems," he says. "Curling soup cans isn't going to benefit them. They need to stress the muscle adequately to benefit.
 
In other words, no pain no gain.

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