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Why Resistance Exercise is Important for Aging Well

Older adults who strength train may develop not only strength and muscle mass but also motivation, mood, and self-esteem, potentially prompting them to continue to exercise.

The decline of muscle mass begins in our early 40s, at a rate of 5 percent per decade, and it frequently leads to a lengthy slide toward frailty and dependence. But studies show that older people who lift weights can slow or even reverse their descent. In multiple studies, healthy older people who started lifting have demonstrated increases in muscularity, strength, mobility, mental sharpness, and metabolic health.

But lifting helps only those who try it, and statistics indicate that barely 17 percent of older Americans regularly lift weights.

How does aging affect our bodies?

Loss of Muscle / Loss of Strength

Declining strength is a sign of aging. Did you know that after age 30, muscle mass decreases by about 3-8% each decade, according to older studies, and this rate rises after age 60. More recent research revealed that the pace of muscular deterioration was closer to 1% each year from 50 years old on. When you consider this rate over time, the effect becomes exponential (continually increasing) (3).

and function, as we get older, is known as sarcopenia and it comes from several factors, including:

  • hormonal changes

  • reduced activity

  • a poor diet that’s low in calories and protein

Research shows that sarcopenia is strongly related to falls and overall frailty, so it’s an important factor to address as you get older.

Decreased balance

If your balance isn’t what it used to be, there’s an explanation for that as well.

As you become older, your eyesight and feedback from the spine's joints, ankles, and knees deteriorate. Your eyesight declines, your cognitive skills weaken, and your joints become less flexible. As a result of this inability to maintain one's balance throughout the day, the body loses its equilibrium.

Decreased range of motion

Are your shoulders, hips, or knees moving as freely as they used to? As we get older, our range of motion — the total movement capacity of a joint - decreases due to changes in connective tissue, arthritis, loss of muscle mass, and other factors. By how much?

In the Journal of Aging Research, researchers examined shoulder abduction and hip flexion flexibility in adults aged 55 to 86. Every decade, they found a 6-degree decline in shoulder and hip joint flexibility among the participants, but they also discovered that age-related loss of flexibility has minimal effect on daily life in generally healthy older individuals.

Strength is very important as we age

One of the ways to combat physical age-related concerns — plus maintain range of motion, strength, and balance — is to incorporate consistent strength training into your weekly routine.

Strength training is beneficial to older individuals, as it helps them maintain healthy mobility and range of motion. It also:

Strength training improves bone density

Resistance training puts strain on your bones from the exercise and force movements, causing bone-forming cells to spring into action. This results in more robust and dense bone.

Strength training improves muscle mass

More muscle yields more strength, better balance, and increased metabolism. By following a training program, older adults were able to increase their muscle mass and muscle strength by 30% in one study.(3).

Enabling better balance and functionality

Muscles are important for basic activities such as sitting down in a chair, reaching up to get something from a shelf, or tying your shoes. These advantages apply to older people in particular and include a decreased risk of falls or other catastrophic injuries.(5).

Enhancing body composition

Maintaining muscle mass is critical to avoid obesity, especially as we get older. (6).

Improving the quality of life

Older people who engage in a regular resistance training program often experience psychosocial well-being benefits.(5).

Goals for your at-home strength training program

Committing to and maintaining an at-home strength training program can be the first step to preventing — or delaying the onset of — many age-related ailments.

It is very important if you are new to exercising to exercise safely. Begin slowly, stay hydrated, listen to your body and use proper form and equipment.

Exercise doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming.

Your at-home strength training program should:

  • Include 2-3 sessions weekly. Incorporate a 20- to 30-minute strength training session 3 days per week. You can work out at home with minimal equipment and still see significant results.

  • Work your whole body. Incorporate upper body, lower body, and core exercises to get the most out of each workout.

  • Be consistent. The more consistently you strength train, the better your results will be.

Your future self thanks you for the investment in your health that you make today.

Strength training is essential as we age in order to maintain our muscle mass, bone density, and range of motion. It can also help improve our balance and decrease the likelihood of falls. Luckily, strength training doesn’t have to take place in a gym or require expensive equipment. There are plenty of exercises that can be done at home with just a few pieces of basic equipment. If you’re looking to start a strength-training program but don’t know where to begin, our team can help. Sign up for a free personal training intro today and let us show you how easy (and fun) it can be to stay strong throughout your golden years. We would love to help you create a plan that meets your specific goals and helps you stay healthy and strong as you age!

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