Strength Training For Older Adults

Strength training for older adultsStrength training is a safe and effective way for improving the overall health and wellbeing for women and men of all ages, including older adults and individuals with major health complaints.  In fact, people with health concerns such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and muscle injuries can often benefit the most from an exercise program that includes lifting weights at least two times per week.

Strength training has been shown to have an enormous positive impact on a number of physical health measures, particularly when undertaken in conjunction with regular aerobic exercise, whilst also having a profound impact on your mental and emotional health.

Benefits of strength training for older adults

Strengthening of bones

Loss of bone density, particularly as you get older, exposes you to a greater risk of bone fractures.  Results from a study conducted at Tufts University showed that strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk for fractures among men and women aged 50 to 70 years.

Proper weight maintenance

Muscle is active tissue that consumes calories, while stored fat uses very little energy. Strength training can increase metabolic rate by up to 15%, which is enormously helpful for weight loss and long-term weight control for older people.

Improved glucose control

Studies show that lifestyle changes such as strength training have a profound impact on reducing the risk of diabetes, and for helping older adults manage their diabetes. Strength training results in dramatic improvements in glucose control that are comparable to taking diabetes medication.

Sleep improvement

People who exercise regularly enjoy improved sleep quality.  They fall asleep more quickly, sleep more deeply, awaken less often, and sleep longer.

Healthy heart tissue

Strength training is important for older adults and cardiac health, because heart disease risk is lower when the body is leaner.  Studies show that cardiac patients gain not only strength and flexibility, but also aerobic capacity when they complete strength training three times per week as part of their rehabilitation program. The Australian Heart Foundation recommends strength training as an effective way to reduce the risk of heart disease, and as a therapy for patients in cardiac rehabilitation programs.

Restoration of balance and reduction of falls

Strengthening exercises (when done properly and through the full range of motion) increase your flexibility and balance, while also decreasing the likelihood and severity of falls.  These benefits have been observed with as much as a 40% reduction in falls, just by including simple strength and balance training to your lifestyle.  This is a great result and shows how strength training can improve balance and reduce the falls that can lead to osteoporotic bone fractures.

Our recommendations

We recommended that including strength training in your lifestyle should be done under supervision, to ensure that you follow correct and safe techniques for your body and your fitness level.  A strength training program should be designed based upon your individual needs and limitations, accounting for your injuries, posture, and any health-related issues.  Each individual has differing and unique demands because your body is DIFFERENT! Therefore, generic “one size fits all” programs should be avoided as they WILL expose you to injury.

You should also avoid relying on fixed machine weights to perform your exercises, as sports science research demonstrates that these machines fail to activate your important stabilizing muscles.  Training these muscles is critical for developing the balance, control, and optimal functioning of your body, required for the rigors of day-to-day life in a three-dimension world.  So get out there and strength train for better health and better function of your most valuable asset – your body!

(Image sources: LA Times Blog, Calgary Herald, Impowerage)