This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
The Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon searched for years during the 16th century for the Fountain of Youth. He believed if he drank the mysterious waters from the legendary spring he would never grow old. Too bad no one told him about strength training — he could have stopped his search early.
Today, so many of us are looking for a magical quick-fix to maintain youthful appearance and vitality. Truth be told, there is no quick fix, but there is one remedy that has proven successful time and time again: strength training.
Strength training, defined as the use of resistance to muscular contraction to by using gravity or elastic/hydraulic forces to oppose muscle contraction, is the closest thing to the Fountain of Youth we’ll ever find.
Here are seven benefits of strength training:
#1: Increases bone density. As with muscle, people lose up to one percent of their bone density per year after the age of thirty — an amount that doubles during menopause. This can lead to osteoporosis. Regular weight bearing exercise counteracts this.
#2: Increases metabolism. Studies show that for each pound of muscle you gain, you will burn 35-50 more calories daily. Every muscle cell gained from weight lifting revs up your metabolism so you are constantly burning more calories; even while you are sleeping.
#3: Promotes better posture. Not only does proper posture allow you to move with more freedom and make you feel more confident, it will also make you look slimmer.
#4: Reduces risk of diabetes. Adult-onset diabetes is a growing problem for women and men. Research indicates even four months of regular weight training can increase glucose utilization in the body by 23 percent.
#5: Reduces stress. Strength training will elevate your level of endorphins (natural opiates produced by the brain), and this will make you feel great. Strength training has also been shown to be a great antidepressant; it can help you sleep better and improves your overall quality of life.
#6: Preserves lean muscle mass. Referring to muscle hypertrophy and atrophy, Hippocrates famously wrote, “That which if used develops, and that which if not used wastes away.” Regular strength training will protect and preserve lean muscle mass, helping you burn calories more efficiently and avoid the saggy skin that tends to mark where you were once toned.
#7: Protects the back and joints from injury. The best way to protect your bones and joints is to ensure their surrounding muscles are strong enough to support them. Your abdominals (your core) supports your spine; your leg muscles support your knee, etc. If these muscles aren’t reinforced and strong, injuries are more likely to occur.
Strength Training Will Benefit You No Matter How Old You Are
Now, I’m not talking about body building or bulking muscle, but, rather, the implementation of a regular, light weight strength training routine that targets specific muscle groups. And studies show that increasing your strength is possible at any age. Even men and women in their 70s and 80s improve their health with strength training. (Note: It is always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting a strength training program.)
Always be sure to warm up your muscles with 15 minutes of light cardio before you get started. You are more likely to pull a muscle if your body is cold. And, give yourself at least a day of rest (though you may need more after the first workout) between workouts for your muscles to recover.
Remember, you want to challenge yourself, not kill yourself. The first few weeks, focus on learning how to do each exercise rather than on how much weight you’re lifting or how many exercises you’re doing. You have plenty of time to build muscle.
Strength training will give you more energy, help you look better, reduce the risk of injury and decrease joint and muscle pain. It’s the closest thing there is to the Fountain of Youth. And remember, it is never too late to get started.