Biomarkers of Aging, Strength Training Updated

Live Like You Can

By Janis McDonald

In l970, fitness was seen as a fad destined to fade away and live with all the other failed “weight loss” techniques. Yet a few years later, it was still going strong when I taught my first exercise class with no comprehension of the how, why, what, and when to do it. We did, however, know “where” and Body by Janis was born at the Navy Gym in Beeville, Texas, with a group of 60 women all on a journey to get thinner. At this time, motivation for exercising was mostly based on losing weight.

Most people don’t know that Dr. Kenneth Cooper (Cooper Institute for Aerobic Research) coined the word “aerobics,” which ignited the fitness revolution, sparking thousands to join the fitness movement and reap the benefits of aerobic exercise. His book, Aerobics, sold 30 million copies and was translated into 41 languages, including Braille. The health benefits of moderately aerobically fit individuals include a decreased risk for cancer, diabetes, dementia, depression, high cholesterol, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, stroke, and non-fatal heart attack, with an increased life span of six to nine years longer than those who are unfit.

Aerobic teachers spent the next 20-plus years proclaiming the benefits of aerobics and its connection to health and weight. We were all young, tough, and able to jump up and down in the high impact aerobic classes.

In l992, the fitness industry experienced another major paradigm shift with the discovery of the 10 biomarkers for aging by William Evans, PhD and Dr. Irwin H. Rosenberg at Tufts University USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging. These biomarkers were guidelines that told how old you would be if you didn’t know how old you were in years. The 10 biomarkers are muscle mass, strength, basal metabolism rate, body fat percentage, aerobic capacity, blood-sugar tolerance, cholesterol/HDL ratio, blood pressure, bone density, and the ability to regulate internal temperature.

Somewhat radical for the time, Evans and Rosenberg found that strength training was the intervention that most positively affected all of the biomarkers. I remember the excitement of adding various types of resistance training to our aerobic classes with homemade props and tools. In Hawaii, we came up with the idea of using bicycle inner tubes for “band exercises” which worked quite well for the women in tights. However, I always witnessed the men with their hairy legs opting out on this part of class!

Evans and Rosenberg state that the first biomarker, muscle mass, is responsible for the vitality of the whole physiological apparatus. Muscle mass and strength, the second biomarker, are our primary biomarkers. Sort of like lead dominoes that start to topple and the rest of the biomarkers follow. Aerobic exercise is important, but strength training is pivotal for staying independent and younger longer.

Now 23 years later, subsequent research has continued to support the findings of Evans and Rosenberg, stating categorically that exercise is the key to successful aging. Over the next few months, I will address each of the biomarkers of aging and expound on how strength training can enhance the 10 biomarkers of aging.

Janis McDonald, Professional Health Coach, Functional Aging Trainer, Private Gym, 152 0457. Follow the Live Like You Can Blog! Go to:


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