. Muscle strength for seniors is important because of the natural decline that occurs as we age
. To counteract that it’s good to do our own strength training to replenish what we are losing
. Seniors who engage in strength training often report feeling happier and more outgoing
As we get older our muscles, joints and tendons naturally lose strength, flexibility and function. It’s an unfortunate fact of life. To counteract that it’s important for seniors to do their own muscle strength training to replenish what they are losing. While it’s unlikely that we will be able to get back all of the strength and flexibility from our younger days, with a disciplined, structured exercise program you can certainly slow the decline and continue to live a happy, healthy, productive life by committing a certain amount of time each week to strengthening your muscles, joints and tendons, all of which become vulnerable as we age.
This study outlines how the ageing process can be attributed to ‘a number of physiologic and functional declines that can contribute to increased disability, frailty, and falls’ through a reduction of muscle strength known as sarcopenia.The study suggests that strength training is an excellent way of combating the natural deterioration of the body in this regard. ‘Done regularly (e.g., 2 to 3 days per week), these exercises build muscle strength and muscle mass and preserve bone density, independence, and vitality with age.’
Osteoporosis is a common ailment that arises as we get older and there is definitely evidence to suggest that strength training helps to nullify and neutralise the effects of this condition because one of the goals is to improve bone strength by challenging the body to respond and get stronger. This study states that ‘Of the several exercise training programs, resistance exercise (RE) is known to be highly beneficial for the preservation of bone and muscle mass.’
It goes on to say that ‘Exercise training, especially RE, is important for the maintenance of musculoskeletal health in an aging society’ and that ‘Based on the available information, RE, either alone or in combination with other interventions, may be the most optimal strategy to improve the muscle and bone mass in postmenopausal women, middle-aged men, or even the older population.’ While the majority of health benefits in regards to strength training are physical there is now evidence emerging that there are also definite psychological benefits that are a direct by-product.
To summarise, seniors who engage in this type of strength and resistance work often report feeling happier, more confident and more outgoing while having a positive self image because there is a certain chemical reaction that is unlocked as well as being a natural boost to your self-esteem when you successfully challenge yourself and step out of your comfort zone. This study suggests that ‘Resistance training improved exercise-related motivational and volitional characteristics in older adults. These improvements were linked to continuing resistance training 1 year after the supervised intervention.’ Greater motivation and positive reinforcement are certainly some of the psychological benefits that can come with strength and resistance training.
We will go in to greater detail at a later date but in this overview of why it’s important for seniors to build muscle strength the last point we will touch on is how to structure your training program to get the most out of it without going overboard. The first point is frequency. When starting out, two to three times per week with eight to ten repetitions for each exercise is a good starting point. That way you can ease yourself into your work, it’s not too time consuming and you’re not overdoing it which means that your body will slowly and naturally adapt.
Obviously once you are confident and comfortable you can either add repetitions or frequency but still be mindful of not overloading your body. You want to try and achieve a balanced fitness program and one that is sustainable over the long run. Muscles also need time to grow and relax in between so it’s important to put some distance between your workouts to achieve optimal benefit. Stay dehydrated, keep a safe work area and develop your strength training slowly, steadily and meticulously with a long term vision in mind and you will be well on your way to success.
NCBI: The benefits of strength training for older adults
NCBI: Effects of resistance exercise on bone health
NCBI: Motivational characteristics and resistance training in older adults: A randomised control trial and 1 year follow-up