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Should You Lift Heavy Weights After 40?

author image Eric Brown
Eric Brown began writing professionally in 1990 and has been a strength and conditioning coach and exercise physiologist for more than 20 years. His published work has appeared in "Powerlifting USA," "Ironsport" and various peer-reviewed journals. Brown has a Bachelor of Science in exercise physiology from the University of Michigan and a Master of Science in kinesiology from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Should You Lift Heavy Weights After 40?
Heavy lifting should be part of your exercise program at any age. Photo Credit: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images

While most of the losses in muscle come when you are significantly older, lifting heavy after 40 can prevent this. Heavy lifting not only increases lean muscle mass, it increases bone mineral density, as well. Heavy lifting generally consists of lifting at least 75 percent of the most weight you can lift for a single repetition on a particular exercise. This is critical especially for older women, who face risks of osteoporosis if they do not do weight-bearing exercise.

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Lifting Helps Your Metabolism

Maintaining lean muscle mass requires effort, but it results in an increase in your metabolism. Strength training, particularly compound lifts such as squats and deadlifts, improves the strength of the muscles that support your hips and back, ensuring good posture. Deadlifting alone strengthens the back, abdominals and legs and is one of the best weight-bearing exercises you can do at any age. As you age, this becomes even more important because no one likes to have difficulty picking things up from the ground.

Lifting Burns Fat

Resistance training, assuming it is done with heavy-enough weights enough, will increase the rate at which you burn fat. A heavy strength-training session can allow you to continue to burn calories for up to 48 hours after you are done training. Heavy resistance training with shorter rest periods can also stimulate the production of growth hormone, and your production of growth hormone decreases as you age. Growth hormone will help maintain the health of your bone structure, muscle mass and support immune function.

Lifting Boosts Hormones

Heavy lifting can have a profound effect on the ability of your body to produce steroidal hormones, particularly testosterone. You must lift heavy for this occur. Testosterone is another hormone whose production decreases as you age, and it is important in maintaining lean muscle mass, wound healing and repair, sexual function and immune function. Light training will not achieve this, but heavy, compound exercises with high intensity and short rest periods will.

Lifting Increases Muscle

Sarcopenia is the age-related loss of muscle mass that occurs in everyone. While normally you must be far older than 40 for this to occur, why wait? If you build the habits of maintaining lean muscle mass through heavy resistance training, you will have both more muscle mass and good training habits to rely on as you age. An estimated $18.5 billion was spent in health care that was directly attributable to sarcopenia in the year 2000, according to the "Journal of the American Geriatrics Society." Keep lifting heavy now and reduce your health care costs later.

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