This is my not-so-secret roadmap to the font of eternal youth.
- Pick things up and put them down again, and if you’re over forty, aim for very heavy things, only picking them up a few times.
- Do this alongside people you want to spend time with, preferably the same people over time.
- Rinse and repeat several times a week for ever.
Everything I read and listen to about aging well, fighting off both serious disease and lurgies, and improving your mental health comes down to this: lift weights with friends, regularly.
Social connection and strength training come out again and again as the things that improve our health outcomes.
In 2017, writing in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, Martino et al concluded that:
From the current body of medical research, it is evident that social connection has substantial impacts in many categories of health from weight management, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and depression.
As long ago as 2012, writing in the American College of Sports Medicine, Wescott concluded that resistance training [which is exercising using resistance and can be in the form of weights, resistance bands, bodyweight or machines] is effective in
- Increasing metabolic rate
- Reducing fat weight
- Reducing lower back pain
- Decreased arthritic discomfort
- Resisting type 2 diabetes
- Reducing resting blood pressure
- Increasing bone density
- Decreased symptoms of depression
- Improving cognitive ability
So here’s what I recommend.
It doesn’t matter what age you are. Even in very elderly people, strength training has benefits for longevity.
Pick your favourite people with whom you’d like to share some extra quality years at the end of your life. Your political party pals, your lover, your sibling, the women you met at nightschool.
Don’t let them tell you they’re not fit enough to do it, because they’ll get fit by doing it. You’ll show up to chum each other, even on the days you don’t feel like it.
Find someone to tell you what to do. Honestly, if you can at all afford it, it’s worth it. The way to choose the right personal trainer is to choose someone you could spend an hour a week with – this matters more than what their speciality is! That person will teach you how to lift heavy things without increasing the risk of hurting yourself, and tell you how many times to do it.
This is better than an online programme off YouTube or Instagram because when you pay, you pay attention. Instagram won’t care when you sack it off – but you and your PT will. It doesn’t have to be super expensive – many PTs have groups or hybrid programmes that are less costly than one to one.
Finally, apply my three favourite words – coffee, deadlifts, orgasms – oh, no, sorry, the other three favourite words – time, focus, consistency – again and again, and I bet you’ll find yourself feeling stronger and happier.
After that, other things will fall in to place.