You’ve heard it time and time again, we gain weight as we get older. Yes, there is some weight gain as we age, but obesity is not inevitable. Most often, it’s the loss of muscle and inactivity that makes weight gain happen, not just age itself. Strength training for older adults is so important to help maintain and improve their muscular health.
There are some real physiological changes that happen with each passing decade and if you don’t do something to counteract that, you might see some of the big problems with aging.
Think about your younger years, let’s say age 20 to mid-30s, your body was in tip top shape with very little effort. Muscles were defined and your bones were strong. That’s the beauty of youth, you are building up your body to be strong. When you hit 40, there is a gradual decline; around 70, it starts to happen more rapidly.
Sarcopenia, or the loss of muscle mass and function is seen in around 25-45% of older adults over the age of 60. This is one of the major concerns in older adults today. Loss of muscle mass and function has the potential to impact mobility and simple activities of daily living, like walking to the store from your car, doing chores around the house, and even going to the bathroom – these are activities that are vital for independent living.
Moreover, increased strength and balance can help protect you from a fall and even help strengthen the muscles surrounding your joints, which can help relieve joint pain.
As you age, your muscles naturally change, but the there is a way to attenuate the changes and the declines in strength and function — it’s called strength training.
Perhaps when you hear the words, “strength training” you think of a bodybuilder doing bicep curls in the gym. That’s not exactly what it means for everyone, but by all means, if bodybuilding is your goal — go for it.
Strength training is simply using weights to maintain and build muscle mass in all parts of your body, upper and lower body. More strength may help protect you against falls and will allow you more independence and yes, it can even help you from gaining too much weight.
Physical activity is so important as you age, so keep some cardiovascular activities in your routine, such as walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming, but add some strength exercises to keep those muscles strong.
If you’re not sure how to get started, reach out to your local gym, rec center, or community center to see if there are any free or low-cost classes. Depending on your tech skills, you can do a simple YouTube search and do a workout at home with bodyweight exercises.
No matter how you get started, strength training is vital for older adults to maintain muscle mass and function and whether you use your bodyweight, bands, free weights, or machines, the end result will keep you stronger and hopefully more independent.