Stronger Muscles Lead to Longer Life

March 24, 2014

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Dust off those free weights. A new study published in the American Journal of Medicine found the more muscle mass older adults have, the less likely they are to die prematurely.

Researchers analyzed the body composition of 3,659 men ages 55 or older and women ages 65 or older.  Data was collected over a six-year period from 1988 to 1994, and a follow-up survey was conducted in 2004 to assess the health of those individuals. The results showed those with more muscle mass had a lower risk of death.

Unfortunately, as we age, we lose muscle mass—about half a pound of muscle per year after age 25. However, by building muscle and reducing fat through exercise, you are more likely to live a long, happy, disease-free life.

Make sure you consult your physician and have a health assessment before beginning an exercise program. Once you’re cleared, here are some easy ways to kick-start your way to stronger muscles.

Weight Training: Build muscle mass by strength training with free weights two to three times per week. Beginners should start with light, 2-to 3-pound weights in sets of 14 to 20 repetitions. If you’ve never completed a strength training routine, it’s best to consult a personal trainer to demonstrate proper form to avoid injury.  Once you’re comfortable, you can gradually increase weight or repetitions. It should feel slightly uncomfortable, and you may be sore a couple days after your workout. It’s how your muscles grow and respond to a new activity. But if the pain gets in the way of everyday activities, like walking, you’re probably doing too much, too soon and need to back off.

Body Weight: Your body weight is the easiest tool you have to create resistance during your workout. If you don’t have time to hit the gym, use your body to build strength in the comfort of your own home. A combination of squats, wall push-ups, and plank exercises will do the trick!

Circuit Training: If you’re crunched for time, circuit training is an excellent way to build aerobic and muscular strength. Circuit training alternates between short bursts of high-intensity strength and cardio conditioning. Because you will be exercising at a high intensity, you need a solid fitness base before you can safely complete a circuit training regimen. Try a combination of jumping jacks, squats, lunges, push-ups, jump roping, and sit-ups. Complete each exercise for 30 seconds with a 30-second recovery between each exercise. Repeat the set three times with a two-to three-minute break between each set. You’ll be done with your workout in less than 30 minutes and ready to take on the rest of your day feeling refreshed and accomplished!

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