It’s “something we should all do”, said Dr Michael Mosley, the something being resistance training.
He warned: “Unless you do resistance exercises your muscles start to decline after the age of 30.”
In his podcast episode titled ‘Stay Young’, Dr Mosley looked at how strength training can keep your body staying young at a cellular level.
He said: “Studies have shown that in just 12 weeks you can increase your muscle mass by up to 10 percent. And your strength by up 1o 150 percent.
“This in turn can impact your whole body. For a start, it can give your brain a boost.
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“A review of dozens of studies on the effect of exercise on the over 50s has shown that both aerobic and resistance training are good for the brain.
“But research has found that resistance training was especially good on memory and executive function, which improves things like problem solving.”
Another benefit of resistance training is better sleep. Dr Mosley continued: “A recent study showed that a year long resistance exercise programme not only helped its participants sleep better, it also helped them sleep longer by nearly 20 minutes each night.”
And it may also help with weight loss: “Resistance exercise could also help you lose fat, particularly around your belly.”
Dr Mosley added: “Researchers at Harvard University followed over 10,000 men for 12 years, and they found, minute for minute strength training targets belly fat better than cardio.
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“And that’s important because the fat you accumulate around your belly doesn’t just sit there passively, it produces chemicals that can have a negative effect on your blood sugar levels.
“Muscle cells on the other hand have a positive effect, when you exercise they soak up blood sugars like a sponge.
“In fact one study found that for every 10 percent increase in your skeletal muscle, there was a ten percent reduction in your risk of prediabetes.
“Which means not only does building muscle make you look and feel younger, but it could also add years to your life.
“A recent analysis found that 30 to 60 minutes of resistance training a week reduces the risk of dying from heart disease and cancer by up to 20 percent.”
So, what happens to our muscles as we age, particularly if we don’t do exercise?
Abigail Mackey, a professor of muscle physiology at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, explained to Dr Mosley: “The main things that happen are loss of fibres…and a more worrying change is that the number of muscle fibres we have decreases.
“And this happens because of the muscle nerve connection being lost. If this muscle nerve connection becomes weakened because the muscle fibres have never been used, then eventually the connection will be broken and those muscle fibres will die.”
Professor Mackey said you’re never too old to start resistance training: “It doesn’t matter how old you are, you will get benefits. But I think what’s also emerging now is that if you’re active for all of your life, then you slow down some of these negative changes that happen with ageing. You might even prevent them completely.”
Dr Mosley’s parting advice: “If you haven’t done resistance training before, do check with your GP before embarking on a new exercise regime, and always start slowly. One simple lifestyle change you can do to stay young.”
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