Strength Training Benefits for Seniors
Strength training benefits can be highly effective for people over age 70, according to fitness experts at the Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. For the average person, muscle strength peaks between ages 20 and 30 and slowly declines after that at a rate of about 1 % per year.
What Does the Loss of Muscle Strength Mean to Seniors?
At approximately age 70, loss of muscle strength can be large enough to limit the kinds of activities the person can do. For some seniors, that loss of strength may mean an inability to move a piece of furniture or to carry heavy grocery bags. Loss of muscle strength can reach the point where a person has trouble moving fast enough to cross a street or even getting out of bed. Loss of strength is also associated with an increased likelihood of falling.
How Can I Maintain Muscle Strength?
Improved strength with weight training can help seniors by preventing many of the problems associated with loss of muscle strength. While not a perfect fountain of youth, a vigorous strength training program can improve muscle strength in a 70-year-old to the equivalent of an average 40-year-old.
Improve Your Muscle Strength
According to researchers at the Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, lifting heavy weights stimulates muscles to grow and increases their size and strength. Their studies have shown this to be true even in a group of 90-year-olds!
What Is the First Step?
Before beginning a weight lifting program, fitness experts say it is essential to consult with a doctor and physical therapist. Weight training programs must be done carefully to avoid injury and maximize benefits. Some older people have medical problems such as high blood pressure or joint injuries that make weight lifting unsafe. Improper weight lifting technique can also cause injury by straining muscles and ligaments. Some older people will be able to strength train safely with little or no supervision, while others may require expert medical supervision.
How Do I Begin a Weight Lifting Program?
A number of different kinds of weights can be used, from typical household items such as books to barbells, variable resistance weight machines and, finally, electrically controlled weight machines (isokinetic ergometers). For each muscle group to be exercised, the amount of weight to be lifted is ideally about as much weight as you can lift 8-10 times without having to stop. Lighter weights are not as effective m increasing strength. Heavier weights provide little extra gain and increase the chance of injury.
Three training sessions should be done per week, with each session consisting of 8-12 lifts repeated 3 times.
What are some Strength Training benefits?
• Increased muscle strength
• Reduced risk of falling and less injury when there is a fall; and
• Increase in bone strength, helping to reduce brittle bones
A final note: many older people often have poor eating habits and can actually be malnourished. Malnutrition results in muscle mass being burned as fuel, further reducing muscle strength. Not only does malnutrition result in muscle weakness, but it also reduces the effectiveness of exercise training to increase muscle mass and strength.