Exercise and Aging
– by guest blogger Serena Bridges
It is no secret that men and women age differently. When it comes to exercise and aging, there are reasons for everyone to engage in weight training – but those reasons are gender-specific.
For women, the main reason to engage in weight training as they age is bone mineral density. Osteoporosis, the severe loss of bone mineral density, is a cloud looming over women that are 50 years of age and older. It may come as a surprise that women are four times more likely to have osteoporosis than men or that 50 percent of women over age 50 have some degree of this condition. This is important because, when bones become weakened, it leads to a number of correlated outcomes such as, loss of height, change in posture, bone fractures, and lower back pain.
There are also personal variables, like family history, that increase or decrease the risk of osteoporosis, but one unanimous counter to this disease is a consistent weight training routine. This is because when you stress the bone by compressing it (as is done during any sort of pressing motion, lower or upper body), the body responds by making the bone denser. There is a direct link between weight training and fending off osteoporosis.
For men, there are two main reasons to engage in weight training as they age – to maintain testosterone levels and to ward off chronic diseases. While men are also at risk for osteoporosis, there is the more gender-specific issue that men begin to lose testosterone as they pass the 45–50-year-old age marker. There are two things associated with testosterone that are usually important to men as they age – energy levels and libido. Depressing testosterone levels are associated with lower overall energy levels and lower libido. The most consistent way of reversing this trend is to engage in a consistent weight training routine. Along with some supplementation, weight training for men age 50 and older can increase confidence and can decrease the risk of many age-related chronic illnesses, including heart disease.
Finally, an issue that cuts across gender lines is that of community. As we get older and become empty-nesters, we begin to have more free time that would otherwise have been dedicated to getting the kids up and off to school or to their many and varied after-school activities. Joining a gym and going consistently at the same time of day (whether early morning or late afternoon) means you will likely begin seeing the same group of people who have made exercise a part of their daily routine. This is especially true if you join a group class like an aerobics or spinning class. An exercise community can make going to the gym that much more fulfilling and “suffering” together is a surefire way to build new friendships.
Regardless of the motivation, joining a gym and engaging in weight training as we age is a good idea for both men and women.
A Certified Personal Trainer who is A.C.E. certified, Serena Bridges is a personal training expert and enthusiastic developer of healthy aging strategies. She graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Exercise and Sport Science. She and her family currently reside in Prior Lake, Minnesota.