Physical Activity is Essential to Healthy Aging & Strength Training For Older Adults

Today, new information is emerging from research: people of all ages and physical conditions benefit from exercise and physical activity.Do you hope to maintain quality of life as you grow older? Is it important that you’re able to perform your daily tasks, enjoy your recreational activities, and care for yourself? You probably would like to stay fit, trim, strong and mobile for as long as possible. If you do happen to have some physical limitations, you would want to halt or maybe even improve your condition. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently had a feature on Strengthening Activities and Older Adults.

When people age, they lose muscle.  Thus, muscle strengthening activities can provide many health benefits especially as you age.  According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, older adults gain substantial health benefits from 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity in combination with muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week.

A brisk walk is enough for the aerobic activity.  When doing muscle strengthening be sure to focus on all seven major muscle groups:

Legs , Hips , Back , Abdomen , Chest , Shoulders , Arms

Muscle strengthening activities will slow the rate of muscle loss associated with aging and can also help maintain bone strength, improve your balance, coordination, and mobility.  This means you’ll be less likely to have falls – a scary reality for many aging Americans

Research from the NIH shows that actually the opposite is true:

  • Exercise is safe for people of all age groups.
  • Older adults hurt their health far more by not exercising than by exercising.

An inactive lifestyle can cause older adults to lose ground in four areas that are important for staying healthy and independent: strength, balance, flexibility, and endurance.

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Good News On the Physical Front!
You can do more than just hope for a strong, mobile body as you age. It is possible to turn back the aging clock! The myth is that as we grow older we get much weaker and suffer more aches and pains. We’ve been told that losing muscle and gaining fat are just part of the natural aging process. The fact is that many of the symptoms of old age are really the symptoms of inactivity—of using our muscles less! Muscle weakness, bone loss, and sluggish metabolism are changes that accompany aging but are not solely caused by it.

Strength Training: The Primary Weapon Against Aging

They still haven’t found the fountain of youth, but something close to it. Researchers at Tufts University exercise lab say that strength training is a potent age eraser. It is their weapon of choice for fighting physical declines associated with aging.

The Muscle-Fat Connection
Physical inactivity causes an average muscle loss of 5-7 pounds per decade. This muscle loss leads to a metabolic rate reduction of 2-5% per decade. Calories that were previously used for muscle energy are put into fat storage, resulting in gradual weight gain. One study on older adults (Campbell, 1994) showed that a 3-month basic strength-training program resulted in the exercisers adding 3 pounds of muscle and losing 4 pounds of fat, while eating 15% more calories!

Osteoporosis Prevention
At Tufts University, researchers found that strength training can add bone density. Prior to this research, it was thought that women might be able to slow their bone loss, but not increase their bone density. This new study shows that strength training at any age can actually add bone, not just slow its loss!

Arthritic Pain Decreases
According to Tufts, sensible strength training may be one of the best ways to get relief from your arthritis. Not only will it help to lubricate and nourish the joint, strength training will also strengthen the muscles around the joint, providing it with greater support.

Glucose Metabolism Improvement
As we age, our glucose sensitivity decreases. Poor glucose metabolism is associated with Type II diabetes. One study (Hurley 1994) found that after 4 months of strength training, there was an average increased glucose uptake of 23%!

Strength Training is a Simple Concept
It involves briefly working your muscles, on a regular basis, a little more than they are accustomed to working. This causes your muscles to become stronger and more toned. Also, your tendons, ligaments and bones will be strengthened.

Exercise bands are an effective tool for strength training. When you strength train, your muscles exert a force against some type of resistance. It doesn’t matter if this resistance is from machines, dumbbells, or rubber tubing—your muscles, connective tissue, and bones will respond by getting stronger.

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