Getting Older? Stay Strong With Resistance Training

Posted Tue, 04/26/2011 - 2:32pm by Camilla Cheung

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As we age, many of us experience muscle loss and a decrease in strength, especially if we lead a sedentary lifestyle, which is all too common in our day and age. But researchers at the University of Michigan Health System say that your golden years can be a great opportunity to increase your strength with resistance training.

As you get past the age of 50, your body can lose up to 0.4 pounds of muscle mass per year, especially for those who don't get much exercise. Researchers at the University of Michigan say that this problem gets worse as you get older, but even younger people in the age ranges of the 30s and 40s can experience muscle loss. This lack of muscle can make it harder for you to go up and down stairs, stand up from a sitting position, and other functions that require mobility. This can decrease a person's quality of life in his/her later years, causing increased risk of disability and lower independence.

But muscle loss doesn't have to be inevitable. In fact, in a paper published by the American Journal of Medicine, experts at the University of Michigan show that just 18-20 weeks of progressive resistance training can increase strength in older adults by 25-30%. Resistance training can increase strength even for those in their 70s and 80s. If you were relatively sedentary as a young adult, you may actually be able to get stronger now using resistance training than you were when you were younger!

Resistance training works by using your own body mass as a training tool for exercise. Some examples of exercises that may be used in such training can include squats, modified push ups, working with an exercise ball, as well as exercises such as Pilates, Yoga, or Tai Chi. These exercises encompass a full range of motion, using your own body weight to strengthen your muscles.

The researchers explained that participation in resistance training among Americans aged 50 and above is very low, but such strength training can be a major factor in a person's mobility and physical function later in life. Strengthening muscles can decrease the risk of slipping and falling by stabilizing the joints and improving balance. Staying active can also help to prevent cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other conditions associated with obesity.

The researchers also emphasized the importance that such resistance training be progressive — starting out with more gentle exercises, and then adapting to the person's improvement by increasing in intensity, frequency, and duration. You can begin on your own with simple exercises at home, such as squats and sitting and standing up out of a chair. Once you become comfortable with such simple exercises, it is a good idea to go to a gym and enlist the help of a trainer who is experienced in working with older people. As you become more accustomed to the exercise, you should increase your training to continue strengthening your muscles.

This post was included in the latest Carnival of Weight Loss, Health and Fitness.

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