When it comes to aging, there’s a lot you can do to create healthy tissue systems that will add years to your life. Withering into old age is NOT inevitable.
In fact, there’s one simple thing you can do that turns back the clock on aging genes and dying cells – and even stops the frequency of those brain blips known as “senior moments.”
It all starts with putting this one thing on your body… With it you can stave off old age and stay young—and youthful looking—for years.
The number one thing to put on your body to reverse aging is muscle mass.
Sarcopenia refers to the loss of skeletal muscle mass and function that happens naturally as we age. In the later stages it’s usually referred to as frailty.
A variety of factors bring on frailty, including decreasing hormone levels and nutritional deficiencies. Frailty is also one of the most prominent causes of disease and loss of independence in older adults.1 And it’s dangerous, leading to hip fractures that most people don’t survive by more than a year.
This means that the key to staying young is to combat the loss of muscle mass with strength training (aka weight lifting or resistance training). If you keep a high level of muscle mass on your body, you directly increase your resistance to disease, restore your genes and keep your brain young.
Resistance to Disease
The amino acids in protein are the building blocks of life. All your vital organs and tissue rely on protein synthesis to regenerate after damage and also to create the antibodies that fight off infection and disease.
Muscles are your protein warehouses, so the more muscle you have the more protein your body has to repair and maintain itself. When your muscle mass deteriorates, as in sarcopenia, it leaves you vulnerable to chronic illnesses and pathological conditions.2
Research published in the British Medical Journal studied 8,762 men aged 20-80 for just under 19 years. The researchers found that men with more muscle mass lived longer and had a lower rate of cancer than men with less muscle. This held true even after the states were adjusted for cardiovascular health, age, body mass index, lifestyle and other factors.3
Longevity Genes and Strength Training
Contrary to popular belief, genes are not destiny. Genes are more like knobs and switches that are influenced by your lifestyle.
A study by Melov et al. found that strength training reversed the gene expression in 179 genes to a youthful level.4 The workouts actually made these genes about ten years younger.
That’s a remarkable finding, and one we should all take advantage of for longer life.
Another study found strength training lengthened telomeres, which also reverses aging at the genetic level.5
More Muscle Mass Means a Younger Brain
Strength training keeps your brain matter as well as your body robust.
Like the muscles in your arms and legs, brain matter ages and weakens over time. By late middle age, the brain develops lesions in the white matter, affecting how parts of the brain can send and receive necessary information. The result can be cognitive decline and dementia.
A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society showed resistance training twice a week reduced the progression of these brain lesions.6
What Aabout Cardio?
Resistance training provides the some of the same benefits as cardio workouts, such as stronger heart and lungs and increased bone density.
You don’t have to stop short bouts of cardio exercise like running or jogging if you enjoy them. But they aren’t effective at building muscle, so you’ll want to add in resistance training as well.
How to Build Muscle to Stay Young
If you’ve never been to a gym or you think weight lifting is only for “meatheads,” don’t worry. You don’t have to be a bodybuilder to get the benefits of muscle mass.
It’s a myth that you have to work out ten or twelve hours a week to get results.
It’s unnecessary, and even harmful, to strength train for more than an hour at a time. Aim for 20 to 60 minutes of strength training three to four times a week. That’s it. Most strength trainers recommend working out every other day.
The idea that women will get “bulky” if they lift weights is also untrue. Unless you’re bench pressing 200+ pounds, your muscles will not become huge. They’ll just be strong and youthful.
Below are some ways to start strength training so you can keep your body and mind young:
- If you have any medical conditions be sure to discuss a new exercise regimen with your doctor.
- Always use good form when lifting weights. Get yourself a trainer, at least at the beginning when you’re learning.
- Begin with bodyweight exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, lunges and squats to begin building muscle. Be sure your weekly routine engages all the muscle groups.
- You can also start with 3-5 pound weights, weighted ankle cuffs and vest, or resistance bands.
- As you gain strength, increase the weight and duration of your training sessions.
- If you don’t have access to a gym, check out some of the workout videos on YouTube.
Add functional moves, like getting up from the floor. This helps with flexibility and strengthens muscles you need every day.
One final point: Good nutrition accounts for about 80% of youthful cells and tissue. Strength training will help leverage the existing benefits of a healthy diet.
So in addition to exercise, eat whole foods, drink a lot of water, avoid sugar in all forms and consume alcohol in moderation. The best nutritional science these days calls for a low-carb, high-protein and high-fat diet (yes, fats are good for you – especially those in coconut oil, avocado, nuts and eggs).
- Sarcopenia in older adults. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4066461/
- The underappreciated role of muscle in health and disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16960159
- Association between muscular strength and mortality in men: Prospective cohort study. http://www.bmj.com/content/337/bmj.a439
- Resistance exercise reverses aging in human skeletal muscle. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0000465
- Strength training and the biomarkers of aging. https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=NFswpRSXxjA
- Resistance training and white matter lesion progression in older women: Exploratory analysis of a 12-month randomized controlled trial. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26456233
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