Research has shown that strengthening exercises are both safe and effective for men and women of all ages, including those who are not in perfect health. Actually, people with health concerns, including heart disease and arthritis often benefit the most from an exercise program that includes weight training 2 to 3 times per week.
Why do we need strength training as we age? At around 35, we start losing muscle mass at a rate of 1% to 2% per year. After age 60, muscle loss accelerates to 3% per year. During this time of muscle loss your muscle cells shrink, and you also lose some of the speed at which the motor neurons fire messages from the brain to the muscles. So you become slower, and you lose muscle mass, bulk and power. If you are inactive when you get older you will face a “use it or lose it” problem.
Strength training, particularly in conjunction with regular aerobic exercise, can also have a profound impact on a person’s mental and emotional health.
The health benefits of long-term resistance training in older adults are well known. They include improvements in muscle strength and endurance, increase muscle mass which translates into improvements in functional capacity. Also, increased weight bearing with resistance training is considered a plus in improving bone density and combating the effects of osteoporosis.
Achieving appropriate levels of function is very important for adults as they age. Given the fact that muscle wasting (sarcopenia) and weakness, exacerbated by physical inactivity, is prevalent in the aging population, more emphasis is being placed on developing resistance-training programs for this age group.
The recommendation from The American College of Sports Medicine, is to strength train 2 to 3 times each week with a break in between sessions of at least 48 hours. In order to continually enjoy improvements in strength and functional capacity, it is important to consistently incorporate progression and variation into the resistance-training program.
Stay tuned for more next month. There is a ton of research out there, now if we would only listen and get up and move.