Resistance training (RT) is an effective way to build muscle mass and strength, but it has additional benefits beyond just improving physical appearance. RT can also improve mitochondria and oxidative capacity in muscles, which are typically associated with aerobic training (AT). This means that resistance training can not only enhance strength, but also improve cardiovascular endurance. And while RT is typically associated with high loads and heavy weights, it can also be done with lighter loads, making it a suitable option for various populations, including the elderly and those with cancer. In fact, research suggests that combining RT with AT or using RT alone may be equally or even superior to using AT alone in terms of overall health benefits.
MOBILITY AND FALLS IN OLDER ADULTS
As we age, maintaining mobility and independence becomes increasingly important for overall quality of life. However, the natural aging process can lead to a decline in muscle mass and strength, which can affect functional ability and increase the risk of falls. Resistance training, also known as strength training or weightlifting, can help older adults improve mobility and reduce the risk of falls.
By building muscle mass and strength, resistance training can improve functional ability and increase stability, making everyday activities such as walking and climbing stairs easier and safer. Resistance training can also help improve balance, coordination, and proprioception, all of which are important for fall prevention. In addition to the physical benefits, resistance training has also been shown to improve cognitive function in older adults and those with mild cognitive impairment. It may work by increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factors and blood flow to the brain, which are linked to improved cognition. While research has mostly shown that aerobic training can improve memory and executive functions, such as focus and multitasking, recent studies have also found that resistance training can have positive effects on these areas in older adults.
It is important for older adults to consult with a healthcare provider and a certified fitness professional before starting a resistance training program. Once cleared for exercise, older adults can start with low- to moderate-intensity exercises using their own body weight or light weights, and gradually increase the intensity and difficulty as they become stronger. Resistance training programs lasting as little as 16 weeks may improve cognitive function in older adults with cognitive impairment, and longer programs may help cognitively healthy older adults. Improving cognitive function through resistance training may improve quality of life in older adults.
COGNITIVE FUNCTION IN OLDER ADULTS AND THOSE WITH MILD COGNITIVE IMPAIRMENT
As we age, our cognitive function may decline and a lack of physical activity can exacerbate this process. However, research has shown that exercise, including resistance training, can help improve cognitive function in older adults and those with mild cognitive impairment. Resistance training, also known as strength training or weightlifting, may work by increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factors and blood flow to the brain, both of which are associated with improved cognition.
While aerobic training has traditionally been thought to be the best type of exercise for improving memory and executive functions such as focus and multitasking in older adults, recent studies have also found that resistance training can have positive effects on these areas. Resistance training programs lasting as little as 16 weeks may improve cognitive function in older adults with cognitive impairment, and longer programs may help cognitively healthy older adults.
It is important for older adults to consult with a healthcare provider and a certified fitness professional before starting a resistance training program. Once cleared for exercise, older adults can begin with low- to moderate-intensity exercises using their own body weight or light weights, and gradually increase the intensity and difficulty as they become stronger. Improving cognitive function through resistance training may improve quality of life in older adults.
CANCER AND CACHEXIA
Cancer and its treatments can lead to a decline in muscle mass and strength, a condition known as cachexia. This can be caused by factors such as tumor-induced inflammation, treatment side effects, and decreased physical activity and nutrition. Cachexia can affect the type and stage of cancer, and its severity can vary based on the number and dose of treatments received. While a higher body mass index (BMI) – which is often due to increased fat mass – may lower the risk of death in some cancer patients, low muscle mass has been associated with a higher risk of cancer recurrence, mortality, surgical complications, and treatment-related toxicities.
Exercise, particularly resistance training (RT), has been shown to improve physical and psychological function, fatigue resistance, and quality of life in cancer patients, and may also reduce the risk of death and cancer recurrence. RT alone or in combination with aerobic training (AT) may be more effective at reducing mortality in cancer patients compared to AT alone. RT can help preserve muscle mass in cancer patients, which is associated with a lower risk of death.
If you are a cancer patient or a caregiver for someone with cancer, consider discussing the incorporation of RT into your treatment plan with a healthcare provider. The benefits of RT in cancer patients include improved physical function, better mood and reduced feelings of depression and anxiety, increased fatigue resistance, and an overall improvement in quality of life. It may also help to reduce the risk of death and cancer recurrence.
METABOLIC HEALTH AND OBESITY
Obesity and type 2 diabetes are characterized by excess fat, high blood sugar, and decreased insulin sensitivity. These conditions are often associated with physical inactivity, weight gain, and an increase in fat tissue. Exercise, including resistance training, has been shown to be effective in managing these conditions by reducing fat mass and improving lipid profiles. Resistance training, also known as strength training or weight lifting, involves the use of weights, resistance bands, or body weight to challenge the muscles and build strength. It has been found to be particularly effective in reducing abdominal fat and improving insulin sensitivity in overweight and obese older adults. Combining resistance training with aerobic exercise may provide even greater benefits for managing obesity and type 2 diabetes. Resistance training has also been shown to improve glycemic control in elderly patients with type 2 diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity and other metabolic factors. Exercise, including resistance training, can improve metabolic health regardless of increasing muscle mass.
Resistance training, also known as strength training or weight lifting, involves the use of weights, resistance bands, or body weight to challenge the muscles and improve strength. It is a popular form of exercise that is often associated with muscle building and athletic performance, but recent research suggests that it may also be linked to a lower risk of mortality in various populations.
One study found that men who participated in resistance training had a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality. Another study found that women who engaged in resistance training had a lower risk of all-cause mortality. While the exact mechanisms by which resistance training may reduce the risk of mortality are not fully understood, it is thought to improve cardiovascular health by increasing insulin sensitivity, reducing blood pressure, and improving cholesterol levels. It may also have positive effects on bone density, body composition, and mental health.
The optimal amount of resistance training for reducing the risk of death and certain diseases is not yet known, but it is generally recommended to participate in 1-2 sessions per week, or the equivalent of 60-120 minutes per week. Higher amounts of resistance training, around 130-140 minutes per week, may increase the risk of death from all causes, cardiovascular diseases, and some types of cancer, although more research is needed to confirm this. Regardless, incorporating resistance training into a regular exercise routine may have important benefits for overall health and longevity.
Resistance training is an excellent way to improve your overall health and reduce your risk of death. It can help boost physical and cognitive function, increase cancer survival rates, and improve your metabolic health. However, some people may be hesitant to incorporate resistance training into their fitness routine due to concerns about the risk of injury or access to gym facilities. But don’t let that stop you! Research has shown that resistance training with light to moderate weights or using your own body weight as resistance can be just as effective in providing health benefits as lifting heavy weights. Future studies should explore the optimal amount and intensity of resistance training, with or without aerobic exercise, for achieving maximum health benefits and reducing mortality risk. So don’t be afraid to give resistance training a try – it could make a big difference in your overall health and well-being.