You know exercise is important, even if you don’t make it to the gym. But many people don’t know why building muscle mass matters.

Strength training isn’t just about having big biceps or being able to lift that huge box from Amazon. Strength training is an important part of your overall fitness; it increases your lean muscle mass which helps you burn calories, lose weight, look better and feel better.

Increasing Your Strength

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, by age 50 you’ve lost about 10 percent of your muscle mass. Your muscle mass decreases by 15 percent per decade in your 60s and 70s. So, by age 80, you can expect to have lost 40 percent of your muscle mass. After that, you lose 30 percent per decade.

That sounds depressing if you want 80 to be the new 60. The good news is that if you maintain good muscle mass before 50 and exercise regularly after 50, you can keep your active, healthy lifestyle. And, according to LiveStrong, if you’ve let your workouts slide, performing strength and resistance training can increase your muscle mass up to three times in two to three months.

Getting toned will improve your energy and stamina. This, in turn, will improve your overall quality of life.

Losing Weight

Building your muscle mass will also help you lose weight. Lean muscle mass burns more calories, more efficiently, even when you’re at rest. The more you exercise, the bigger and more toned your muscles. As you become more toned, exercise becomes less painful and it’s easier to maintain your weight.

Need some motivation? When you build a pound of muscle, you burn 50 more calories a day. That’s enough to lose six pounds a year without doing anything extra.

Reducing Injuries

Building your muscle mass helps protect you from injury. Muscles protect your shoulders, elbows, knees, and ankles. According to WebMD, strength training also builds bone mass.

Falls are the leading cause of injury in older adults; they can lead to fractures and broken bones. Building muscle mass can improve your balance and flexibility, reducing the risk of falls and injury.

Strength training also improves your sleep, reducing fatigue and increasing your awareness.

Additionally, exercise makes you more aware of your body. You know your limitations. You notice when something hurts. You are less likely to further injure yourself when you have learned to listen to your body’s warning signs. It’s a good way to ensure you retain your mobility as you age.

Psychological Benefits

Building your muscles also affects your mood and worldview.

According to NBC news, exercise makes you feel more competent and confident. You gain a sense of mastery as you watch the results build–when you started, you could only do 10 repetitions on the leg-lift machine, but a month later, you can do 40 at twice the weight!

Even the “burn” after weight training has a benefit; you just feel stronger.

Exercise improves your mood. When you concentrate on your workout, you forget about your worries and concerns. You might stop obsessing about your weight and begin to focus on how empowered you feel as you gain strength.

And, exercise releases endorphins, your body’s natural opioids, that reduce pain and anxiety while increasing happiness.

Have you heard of “runner’s high?” That’s your endorphins at work. And, unlike opioid drugs, endorphins are healthy and safe; you can’t get addicted or accidentally overdose.

Getting in a good workout may be especially helpful if you are managing depression or PTSD. Exercise also boosts your brain power. It can help you increase focus and concentration.

New research shows that exercise may help ward off dementia and other memory issues as you age. In fact, a study covered by U.S. News reported that older adults who had been diagnosed with cognitive impairment improved significantly by doing strength training just twice a week for six months.

Medical Health Benefits

U.S. News reported on a Harvard study that showed building muscle mass reduces belly fat. Reducing belly fat improves your heart health and reduces your risk of cancer.

If you have been or are diagnosed with cancer, having good muscle mass will decrease the speed that your tumors grow and improve your chances of surviving.

Strength training has been shown to lower cholesterol and reduce blood pressure. It can improve blood sugar control, which is particularly important if you have Type II diabetes.

Get Your Health on the Right Track

Put this all together and you can see how strength training is key to living a long, healthy life.

So, talk to your provider at Duke City Health to see how strength training could benefit you and your unique health issues.

And, keep an eye out for our upcoming blogs: