Steep physical decline with age isn’t inevitable – here’s how strength training can change the course

Raise your hand if you regularly walk up a flight of stairs. How about carrying heavy shopping bags? How about picking up your child or grandchild? Most of us would put our hand up to do at least one of these weekly or even daily.

As we age, it may become increasingly difficult to perform certain physical tasks, even those that are normal activities of daily living. However, prioritizing physical fitness and health as you age will help you go about your normal daily life without feeling physically exhausted at the end of the day.

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It can also help you continue to have special memories with your family and loved ones that you might not have if you weren’t physically active. For example, I ran two half marathons with my father when he was over 60!

I’m an exercise physiologist who studies how people can do it Use strength training to improve human performance, be it in sports and other leisure activities, in everyday life or both. I am also a certified strength and conditioning specialist. My career has given me the opportunity to develop training programs for children, collegiate athletes and older adults.

Staying physically active as you age doesn’t necessarily mean running a half marathon or trying to become a bodybuilder. It could be as simple as trying to get through the day without feeling exhausted after climbing the stairs. Although our muscles naturally weaken as we age, there are ways to combat this and help improve the quality of life as we age.

Muscle loss and chronic diseases

One of the most important parts of training programming, no matter who I work with, is proper strength training to build muscle strength. Some age-related loss of muscle function is normal and unavoidable. By incorporating strength training that is appropriate and safe for every ability level, you can slow decline and even prevent some loss of muscle function.

The medical term for a condition that includes: Age-related loss of muscle function and mass is sarcopenia. Sarcopenia can begin as early as age 40, but it tends to be that way more common in adults aged 60 and over. Sarcopenia is associated with a number of health problems such as: increased risk of falls, Cardiovascular disease And Metabolic diseaseamong others.

In a previous study by our team, we saw that otherwise healthy people with sarcopenia had problems Providing vital nutrients to the muscles. This could increase the likelihood of various diseases such as type 2 diabetes and slow recovery after exercise.

Current estimates suggest that sarcopenia has an impact 10 to 16% of the elderly population worldwide. But even if a person does not have clinically diagnosed sarcopenia, they may still experience some of the underlying symptoms that, if left untreated, can lead to sarcopenia.

Strength training is key

So the question is: what can be done to reverse this decline?

Recent evidence suggests that sarcopenia is one of the key factors low muscle strength. In other words, controlling or reversing sarcopenia, or both, is best achieved with an appropriate strength training program prioritizes improving strength. In fact, the decline in muscle strength appears to be the case occur much more quickly than the decline in muscle size, highlighting the importance of proper strength training as we age.

Continuing regular strength training with moderate to heavy weights has been shown to not only effectively combat the symptoms of sarcopenia, but also very safe if done correctly. The best way to ensure you are strength training properly is to seek advice from a qualified person, such as a personal trainer or strength and conditioning specialist.

Despite the clear benefits of strength training, it has been shown that only about 13% of Americans ages 50 and older engage in any form of it Strength training at least twice a week.

Find what works for you

So how do you properly strength train as you get older?

The National Strength and Conditioning Association, a leading organization promoting strength and conditioning around the world, states that for older adults Strength training two to three days per week can be incredibly helpful for maintaining healthy muscles and bones and combating a number of chronic diseases.

The organization recommends that these workouts include one to two multi-joint exercises per major muscle group and six to 12 repetitions per set. These are performed at an intensity of 50% to 85% of the so-called one-rep maximum – the most weight you can handle in a single repetition – with the exception of bodyweight exercises that use your own body weight as resistance, such as Pushups.

I would also recommend taking a break of around two to three minutes between sets, or even up to five minutes for more demanding sets. For older adults, particularly ages 60 and older, the National Strength and Conditioning Association guidelines recommend performing such a program two to three days per week, with 24 to 48 hours between sessions.

Make life’s tasks easier

The guidelines above are just one example of many options, but provide a framework you can use to create your own program. However, I would strongly recommend seeking out a professional in the field to give you specific advice on exercise programming that can be tailored to your own needs and goals as you age.

Following such a program would give your muscles an excellent incentive to increase strength while allowing adequate recovery, which is a very important aspect given aging. You might think it looks like a huge time commitment, but an exercise routine like this can be done in under an hour. This means that with less than three hours of strength training per week, you can help improve your muscle health and reduce the risk of sarcopenia and related health problems.

It’s also important to note that there is no one right way to do strength training and it doesn’t necessarily have to require traditional weight equipment. Group classes like Pilates and yoga, or those that include circuit training and resistance band work, can all produce similar results. The key is to get out and exercise regularly, whatever that means.

Zachary GillenAssistant Professor of Exercise Physiology, Mississippi State University. This article was republished by The conversation under a Creative Commons license. read this original article.

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