Over 50? You Should Definitely Lift! Part 2 

Muscle., but not in the way you may normally think of it, is a phenomenally important organ for everyone, especially the over (or approaching) 50’s. 
 
I am not necessarily talking about the aesthetics of carrying a reasonable amount of muscle tissue. Although there is no reason why a person in any decade of life would not care about this. I am talking instead about just how good for you muscle is. From a health and longevity point of view, carrying ample muscle mass is powerful. REALLY POWERFUL. 
 
Muscle is protective. Not just from impact on the rugby field, but from insults of many different natures. 
 
Muscle mass and especially the type of training you do to get and maintain it, can give you a far greater tolerance for carbohydrates, and thus insulin. The hormone of ageing. 
Having ample muscle mass and doing hypertrophy training increases glucose tolerance by increasing the storage site size for carbohydrates. The training will translocate Glut 4, a glucose transporter that will improve glucose uptake into the muscle independently of insulin(1). This means great news for blood sugar management. Over time your insulin sensitivity will improve. Leading to better blood sugar management even in less than perfect dietary situations. 
 
Metabolic rate is largely influenced by muscle mass. The more muscle you have the more you can get away with eating even at rest. 
 
As we age we generally lose muscle tissue. With this we lose strength (read part one of this series for more detail on this). With a loss of strength comes less tension being placed on bone. One of the most significant factors in bone mineral density is actually muscle contraction, (2) and weight baring. Less strength and no regular exposure to high tension states (read; no lifting), contribute to a faster loss in bone mineral density with age. Lifting and maintaining strength will protect against this, which is especially important if you are female. 
 
Strength training can also stimulate the production of testosterone and growth hormone. Two hormones that have a positive and protective impact on the ageing process. These effects include sustaining proper brain function (3) and maintaining optimal body weight and composition. (4) (low weight in later life is associated with earlier death (5) and worse survival rates from various diseases). Strength training and maintaining muscle mass will also protect against frailty which is associated with poorer survival as an independent risk factor in the elderly. (5) 
 
In short, there are many reasons why you should care about how much muscle mass you carry and maintain. Even if the aesthetics of carrying more muscle into your 50’s and beyond is not atop your priorities, I am sure that maintaining robustness and extending life expectancy are. Adding strength training intelligently into your life even just twice per week can elicit great progress even in people in their 70’s. 
 
These effects may not be at the forefront of your consciousness right now, they may seem far away in your future, but the younger you start the younger you stay. 
 
(1). Strasser, B, & Dominik, P. (2013). Resistance Training for Diabetes Prevention and Therapy: Experimental Findings and Molecular Mechanisms. Biomed Research International, 1-8 
(2). Nordström P1, Nordström G, Thorsen K, Lorentzon R. Local bone mineral density, muscle strength, and exercise in adolescent boys: a comparative study of two groups with different muscle strength and exercise levels. 
(3) . Growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor-1 and the aging brain. 1 Reynolds Oklahoma Center on Aging, Donald W. Reynolds Department of Geriatric Medicine, University of Oklahoma 
(4). Adult Growth Hormone Deficiency: Current Concepts. Izumi Fukada, Naomi Hizuka, Toko Muraoka, Atsuhiro Ichihara, 2014. 
(5). Frailty and Body Mass Index as Predictors of 3-Year Mortality in Older Adults Living in the Community, Lee Y. · Kim J. · Han E.S. · Ryu M. · Cho Y. · Chae S.