June 01, 2022

I lifted weights much of the first half of my life and gained the benefits this provides.  Even now that I do not lift regularly, I keep smaller sets of weights around the house and occasionally get inspired to use them.  While Melissa has never formally exercised with weights, she keeps “toning” weights in the living room along with my small sets.  Like any small child, since we brought Zena home, we have found it necessary to put things out of her reach.  She constantly comes into the room with a stream of packing paper or a towel hanging from her mouth.  Usually, we are not even sure where she gets the items from, but they do seem fun for her to carry around.  Recently, Zena found Melissa’s toning weights behind one of the chairs.  Now the green 2½# (1.14 kg) barbell has become a treasured toy.  Zena will pick it up and carry it around.  She takes it outside and tosses it into the air on the patio.  At least someone is using it.     

When I looked online, I found several websites touting the benefits of lifting weights.  While the obvious reason is to get stronger and build more muscle, there are other reasons to lift that could make your life better.  While physical attractiveness is subjective, most people look better with a well-balanced body, and muscle gives your body shape and stature which makes your clothes fit better.  This also increases metabolism, improves heart health, and boosts the endorphins that make you feel better (dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine).  Finally, lifting weights can give you more self-confidence.  While ideally self-confidence should be grounded in an unshakeable sense of self-worth regardless of your current state of health, the reality is that feeling and looking good physically goes a long way to make you feel better about yourself.  These benefits do not require you to be in the gym all day, every day.  Committing to 3 days per week, at around 45 minutes per session, can have a positive impact on your strength, health, and general sense of well-being.

I read a NY Times article saying lifting weights can have positive effect on aging.  Weight training by older people not only builds strength and muscle mass but also provides motivation and confidence which potentially spurs them to continue exercising.  There is plenty of evidence that lifting weights can help us age well.  By our early 40’s, most humans are losing muscle mass at a rate of about 5% a decade.  This decline often precipitates a long slide toward frailty and dependence.  New research shows older people who lift weights can slow or reverse the decline.  Older people who start to lift weights typically gain muscle mass and strength, as well as better mobility, mental sharpness, and metabolic health.  However, statistics indicate only 17% of older Americans regularly lift weights.  The study found there were those who enjoyed lifting weights, while others preferred different forms of exercise, but concluded, “unless you try weights you will never know.”  The overarching lesson is older adults need to exercise.  Maybe I will join Zena and break out my weights.

THOUGHTS:  As I aged, I found my emphasis shifting from physical to intellectual endeavors.  When I was younger, I spent hours lifting weights, running, biking, and playing hand ball.  This was often while not completing the studying or planning needed to accomplish future goals.  Now that I am older, I spend hours researching, writing, and planning, but struggle to find time to pursue the exercise that was such a part of my life.  Melissa and I joke that Zena has two speeds, full out and collapse.  What Zena knows naturally is that you need balance in your life.  While my full out may be less than Zena’s, balance is still required to keep both body and mind functioning.  This is a lesson we all need to remember.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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