In case you haven’t been inside a gym lately, musclemen in tight tank tops and ripped female athletes aren’t the only ones lifting weights. Now you’re just as likely to see a 40-year-old mom pushing against a leg press machine or a 70-year-old retiree hoisting dumbbells. For good reason: Researchers now know that building — and maintaining — muscle is necessary for all of us, especially as we age.
Although it does improve appearance, building stronger muscles isn’t just about vanity. Strength training stops bone loss and can even build new bone — reducing the risk of fractures from osteoporosis down the road. It improves balance, boosts energy, builds confidence, combats depression…and the list goes on. Actually, researchers seem to constantly find new reasons to strength-train: The more muscle men have, the lower their risk of death from cancer, and men who have limited muscle mass are particularly vulnerable to heart failure. If you’re going to start a strength training program, it’s important to know what (and how much) to do, plus how the foods you eat will hurt or help your efforts.