Don’t resist resistance: get lifting as you get older

By Sian Stringer, Ofa Fitzgibbons

22 October 2018

2 minute read

A 1980s photo of Arnold Schwarzenegger smiling at the camera holding weights

Resistance exercise: good for everyone, not just Arnie.

We’ve all heard the spiel. Exercise is important for your health. But do you know what type of exercise you should be doing to support efforts to lose weight, or which exercises are important as you age?

In a survey of more than 5,600 subscribers of our Total Wellbeing Diet, we found that 65 per cent of people aged 51-71, and 86 per cent of people over 71, did not think resistance exercise was important for weight loss an overall health. And only one in two adults added resistance exercise to their weekly program. The most concerning thing about these statistics is that resistance exercise keeps us strong and healthy – particularly as we age.

Do you even lift?

If you think resistance exercise is for the Arnold Schwarzeneggers of the world, think again. Resistance exercise increases muscle strength by making your muscles work against a weight or force.

This style of exercise becomes even more important as we get older and start to experience muscle loss associated with ageing. It can help prevent conditions such as osteoporosis, type II diabetes, and heart disease, and by maintaining our muscle strength, we can carry out everyday living tasks to remain living independently for longer.

Different forms of resistance training include using resistance bands, free weights, weight machines, and body weight exercises like squats or push-ups. Resistance workouts can be done at home without the need for expensive, specialised gym equipment or heavy weights. It’s certainly not limited to bodybuilders and elite athletes.

Let’s get physical

Just like the Australian Dietary Guidelines, we have a set of guiding principles for movement. The Australian Physical Activity Guidelines actually recommend we include a combination of high-intensity cardio and resistance exercise to lose weight. While diet is a huge factor to losing weight, research clearly shows that physical activity is one of the strongest predicators for long-term weight loss.

Our survey found three out of four respondents thought brisk walking was the best way to shed kilos due to the higher calorie deficit – whether it’s getting out for a fun run, weekend bike ride or morning walk by the beach. But only a small percentage of the people surveyed believed strength exercises could help with weight loss and management. The truth is, it’s a bit of both. Resistance workouts can boost fat loss and play a vital role in healthy weight loss. Win-win!

The scientific formula for healthy long-term weight loss combines resistance exercise with a healthy, balanced diet that is rich in protein. This combination results in greater weight loss, greater fat loss and greater reduction in waist circumference compared to a higher carbohydrate diet with exercise, or just diet alone.  And it’s when we get the balance right, that people will see the best results.