Weightlifting slows aging

Even if you’re not a bodybuilder / weightlifter, and if you have no aspirations to be one, but just want to be healthy, give some consideration to the following. Doing the things bodybuilders do and taking the supplements they take can retard aging and give you the muscles and the mitochondria of a much younger person. (And for the ladies, this goes for you too.)

Exercise and nutritional interventions for improving aging muscle health

Skeletal muscle mass declines with age (i.e., sarcopenia) resulting in muscle weakness and functional limitations. Sarcopenia has been associated with physiological changes in muscle morphology, protein and hormonal kinetics, insulin resistance, inflammation, and oxidative stress. The purpose of this review is to highlight how exercise and nutritional intervention strategies may benefit aging muscle. It is well known that resistance exercise training increases muscle strength and size and evidence also suggests that resistance training can increase mitochondrial content and decrease oxidative stress in older adults. Recent findings suggest that fast-velocity resistance exercise may be an effective intervention for older adults to enhance muscle power and functional capacity. Aerobic exercise training may also benefit aging skeletal muscle by enhancing mitochondrial bioenergetics, improving insulin sensitivity, and/or decreasing oxidative stress. In addition to exercise, creatine monohydrate, milk-based proteins, and essential fatty acids all have biological effects which could enhance some of the physiological adaptations from exercise training in older adults. Additional research is needed to determine whether skeletal muscle adaptations to increased activity in older adults are further enhanced with effective nutritional interventions and whether this is due to enhanced muscle protein synthesis, improved mitochondrial function, and/or a reduced inflammatory response.

So, in addition to resistance training, the authors mention creatine, whey protein (“milk-based proteins”), and omega-3 fats from fish oil (“essential fatty acids”). All of these have anabolic effects and can fight against sarcopenia. Yet these supplements are thought of as for bodybuilders and other athletes only. Nope.

By the way, how serious is sarcopenia? According to this, “A gradual loss of muscle fibres begins at approximately 50 years of age and continues such that by 80 years of age, approximately 50% of the fibres are lost from the limb muscles that have been studied…. ‘Master athletes’ maintain a high level of fitness throughout their lifespan. Even among master athletes, performance of marathon runners and weight lifters declines after approximately 40 years of age, with peak levels of performance decreased by approximately 50% by 80 years of age.

As for increase in mitochondrial dysfunction and decrease in mitochondrial number, this is thought to be a key component of aging. Exercise and appropriate supplements keep mitochondria in well-tuned state and cause an increase or prevent a decrease in their numbers. As far as feeling healthy and energetic, keeping mitochondria well-functioning may be one of the best things you can do.

So, after the age of 40, you need to be doing something about aging in general and loss of muscle mass in particular. Supplements that are thought of as being for bodybuilders and other strength athletes – whey and creatine – as well as another one that has anabolic properties – fish oil – are in fact healthy supplements for anyone who’s aging (Which is about everybody.) And the exercise that bodybuilders use, weightlifting, is also one of the best things anyone can do for their health.

PS: If you got some value from this post, I discuss this at greater length in my recent book.


Leave a Comment:

Steve Johnson says April 14, 2014

I always had bad reactions to whey protein but have recently started taking it again after finding a brand of grass fed unflavored whey on amazon.

It’s fantastic and actually has a wholesome flavor – unlike the GNC or Vitamin Shoppe brands that to me have a very “chemically” aftertaste.

Mangan says April 14, 2014

Can’t say I’ve had that problem, but I’ve also never had GNC or Vitamin Shoppe brands. I like NutraBio myself; it’s cold processed and undenatured.

D says December 1, 2014

– For the absolute beginner , and discarding the gym membership option, what would be the bare minimum equipment, if you could pick only one ore two pieces of equipment, to have at home for an allround weightlifting experience ?
– I guess the question is also what is the best exercise in weighlifting if you could do only one or two exercises ?
but these questions may sound naive….

    P. D. Mangan says December 1, 2014

    D, if you have a barbell at home, especially with a bench, you can do almost everything you need to do: bench press (with bench of course), squats, deadlifts, back rows, and military (shoulder) press. You can do dips with 2 chairs or the corner of a kitchen counter. If no bench, elevated push ups with feet on a chair, hands on floor. Pull ups with a cheap pullup bar in a doorway. Lots of other things.

    The Z Blog says March 27, 2015

    Talk to any old time weightlifter and they will tell you squats and dead lifts are the two “must” exercises. After that it is the bench press. Those three lifts work your whole body. I recommend looking on Craigs list for a bench and weights. Spring is a good time because that’s when people unload old gear. You can get everything your need for $200 if you live near a metro area.

    A bench, long bar, weights and some dumbbells if you want to have some variety. It will be the bets investment you make in yourself.

Inflammaging, muscle, and sarcopenia - Rogue Health and Fitness says December 2, 2014

[…] just the end result of many decades of loss of muscle mass; like other physiological systems, the deterioration of muscle mass begins much earlier, as early as the thirties and forties, such that by age 80, fully half of all muscle can be […]

Anon says December 6, 2014

Quote from your IF growth/longevity post: we “may be promoting the aging of our bodies by lifting”
Quote here: “Weightlifting slows aging”

Little confused here.

    P. D. Mangan says December 6, 2014

    Yes I admit it’s confusing, and I don’t think the science is all worked out. Lifting activates mTOR, which increases growth and aging. However, lifting also means better insulin sensitivity, autophagy, mitochondrial function, all of which retard aging.

The Resistance Training Paradox - Rogue Health and Fitness says December 7, 2014

[…] titled a recent post Weightlifting slows aging. In that post, the emphasis was on the fact that resistance training combats sarcopenia (loss of […]

The Z Blog says March 27, 2015

I tell every male hitting their middle years to start weight training. It is simple and cheap and you can do it your whole life. Lots of other activities are not sensible as you get old. The great thing is your strength does not decline as quickly as your cardio vascular capacity. I can bench more now than I could thirty years ago. I can run as fast or as far.

Don't be a victim of muscle loss - Rogue Health and Fitness says May 31, 2016

[…] The average muscle loss in men between the ages of 50 and 70 is 30% (from the paper), and from ages 70 to 80, another 20 to 30% of muscle is lost. Add those figures and you’ve got the basis for the fact that most 80-year-old men will have lost 50% of their muscle mass. […]

How to Inhibit Myostatin for Muscle Growth and Longer Life - Rogue Health and Fitness says June 26, 2016

[…] phenomenon in which both men and women lose muscle beginning in their fourth decade (after age 30). The average person loses a full 50% of his muscle mass by age 80, a condition known as […]

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