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Getting Older, Staying Stronger Over 40

From eDiets - The online diet, fitness, and healthy living resource

It’s no secret that aerobic exercise is a life extender and disease preventer. Armed with that knowledge, hordes of older Americans have hit the pavement with walking programs or put in their time on stationary cycles. They’re all healthier for it.

But, what about building muscle? Once men hit middle age, they tend to shy away from strength training. But, older men stand to gain all the benefits from a stronger physique that younger men do: better overall health, improved posture, more power and stamina, a more attractive and younger-looking body and, perhaps most important of all, a bolstered self-image that translates into confidence.

Strength training adds years to your life. It’s been proven again and again. However, the main reason people in their 40s and 50s should train isn’t for the length of their life but for the quality of it. It’s one thing to live to be 90, but if you’re feeble and helpless, you’re not going to enjoy those years. Strength training beats aging by making life worth living longer.

Muscles are as able to respond to training in the fifth and sixth decades of life as they are in the third and fourth. Aging doesn’t cause significant muscle cell loss, as much as cellular atrophy (diminished density). So, since the object of weight training is to increase the size of muscle cells and not the number, you have virtually as much muscle to work at age 50 as you did at 25.

Of course, not everybody pushing 40 has been working out regularly throughout life, and many are concerned that budding middle age is not a safe time to start. It's recommended that men over 35 check with their doctor before starting up an exercise program. It is true that the risks of injury or complications are greater after that age -- especially if you train incorrectly.

What weight training really does is allow you to make a statement about what your life is going to be like as time passes. Most age-related sacrifices are the result of falling for false notions of what you can or can’t do as you get older. The best example of this is allowing your muscles to weaken because of the myth that there’s nothing you can do about it.

Everybody has his own physical potential at any age, and the closer you get to it, the better your life will be. If you’re 48 and you’re hesitant about strength training because “in two years I’ll be 50, for heaven’s sake,” you’re cheating yourself. In two years, you’re going to be 50 no matter what. It’s a question of what kind of 50 you want to be.

Eston R. Dunn recently received his Master's in Health Science from Stafford University. Eston has been in exercise videos and is certified in exercise leadership/weight-room training through the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), personal training through the American Council on Exercise (ACE), and health-fitness instruction from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

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