Written by: Brendan Rigby (Accredited Exercise Physiologist)
Strength training provides numerous benefits for older adults that can greatly improve your overall health, fitness, and the quality of your life. Over many years in clinical practice, I’ve often seen people rely on walking solely to fulfil their exercise needs and improve the quality of their health.
Whilst walking and other forms of cardiovascular exercise are valuable; this simply isn’t enough to truly improve your health and wellbeing! The physical benefits of strength training have been well documented in the scientific literature; and strength is also a valuable ‘medicine’ in the prevention and treatment of many chronic diseases and cancers.
Understanding the benefits of strength training for your health is often the first step start lifting. Strength training is a science, and getting started with the correct strategy and technique will ensure you are set up for success.
These are the top five benefits:
Increased Muscle Mass and Strength
As people age, they tend to experience a gradual loss of muscle mass and strength, known as sarcopenia. Strength training helps counteract this process by promoting muscle growth and enhancing muscular strength. This can lead to better functional abilities, making everyday tasks easier and reducing the risk of falls and injuries.
Improved Bone Health
Strength training is a weight-bearing activity that puts stress on the bones, stimulating bone remodelling and increasing bone density. This is especially crucial for older adults, as it helps prevent osteoporosis and reduces the risk of fractures. Stronger bones contribute to greater overall stability and reduced likelihood of fractures from falls.
Enhanced Metabolism and Weight Management
Muscle tissue is metabolically active, meaning it burns more calories at rest compared to fat tissue. By increasing muscle mass through strength training, older adults can boost their resting metabolic rate, which can aid in weight management and help prevent weight gain commonly associated with aging.
Improved Joint Health and Flexibility
Engaging in strength training exercises can help maintain joint flexibility and function. It supports the health of connective tissues around joints and helps reduce the risk of conditions like arthritis. By strengthening the muscles surrounding joints, older adults can experience reduced joint pain and improved overall joint stability.
Enhanced Mental Well-being
Regular strength training has been linked to improvements in cognitive function, mood, and mental well-being. The physical effort and achievement associated with strength training can lead to a sense of accomplishment and increased self-esteem. Additionally, exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood elevators that can help combat feelings of anxiety and depression.
It’s important for older adults to engage in strength training that is appropriate for their fitness level and any underlying health and medical conditions.
The design of an exercise program should be done with the assistance of an Accredited Exercise Physiologist to ensure you complete the right exercises in the right ‘dosage’ to set you up for success.
Once you have started, remember that consistency is the key to your success. Gradual progressions over time under the guidance of an Exercise Physiologist is essential for reaping the full benefits of strength training.