…..and How to Reverse Age-Related Muscle Loss.
As you steadily head towards retirement age it becomes progressively more important to take care of your health and physical capabilities because, for most people, your muscle mass, or age-related loss of muscle mass, is on an ever-increasing downhill slide the older you get.
So you could say……..Size Does Matter.
This muscle loss with age is all because of Sarcopenia…….which no one seems to be talking about in the mass media. And most people I talk to about their loss of muscle mass, have never heard of it.
And then the question always arises, what is sarcopenia?
In short, it is the age-related loss of muscle mass or, muscle strength and power.
Muscle weakness is the hallmark characteristic of sarcopenia and is the leading cause of falls in older adults so now is the time to start thinking about doing some strength training to insure against the loss of independence in older age.
The symptoms of sarcopenia affect everyone from the age of around 30 onward so Getting a Start on Growing Stronger earlier on in your life is far more preferable than leaving it until retirement age.
I feel it is such an important part of aging I have devoted a whole article for you about “Understanding the Symptoms of Sarcopenia; the Causes and Prevention”. It tells you all about why exercise is so vital as we age.
The only way to stay ahead of the aging process is by Active Ageing – that is, to stay active for as long as you possibly can so you can reap the positive effects of resistance training on older adults.
Annabelle Breakenridge, head trainer at F45 Peckham Rye, also has this sage advice for us all when it comes to strength training: “Lifting weights strengthens the density of our bones over time; making us less likely to suffer breaks or fractures as we age. It increases our muscle mass, which tends to decline naturally as we age and the benefits go far beyond just building more lean muscle, it allows us to protect our joints, maintaining better mobility, flexibility, and balance in our everyday life.”
Also read: This exercise could help you live longer.
That’s why Strength Training is the best course of action to take for sarcopenia prevention.
And just to help you along the way to beating the symptoms of sarcopenia here are 3 Anti-Aging Exercises for baby Boomers. It also includes a 15-minute senior workout video that covers strength training which I am sure you will find very useful.
Building strength and power is the key to healthy aging, both physically and mentally. It is a lot easier than you think…….the only thing holding you back is YOU so grab a friend and get going.
And for those of you who like using free weights, I have sourced this excellent guide on dumbbell workouts for targeting different muscle groups that I am sure you will also find helpful. It is suitable for both men and women.
Many people seem to think you need a full squat rack or gym membership to gain strength and muscle, but take it from me you can get a lot out of just a basic set of dumbbells that you probably have hidden away in your garage gathering dust.
The guide breaks down dumbbell exercises into chest, shoulder, back, triceps, leg, and core and provides free programs and video guidance on the movements and form with the help of Amanda Capritto, certified personal trainer and staff writer at GGR.
Check it out here at Garage Gym Reviews.
Dr. Jonathan Bean, an associate professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School says the following about getting a start on growing stronger:
“Studies show that strength training for seniors and even over 40’s, not only can slow muscle loss, it can also help prevent or control conditions as varied as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and osteoporosis.
And recent research indicates that it can also improve cognitive function, especially when added to aerobic exercise. As we age, strength training helps to preserve mobility and reduce the risk of falling.
“What has been shown is that if you’re looking at mobility problems, the most beneficial exercises are those that focus on progressive training for strength and power.”
And, how much muscle do you lose as you age? Check out the graph below. Amazing, isn’t it?
The good news is, you can maintain and even improve your physical condition with strength training and a few simple lifestyle changes. Just get a personal trainer to write you an appropriate exercise program and get started.
I have worked out for most of my 70+ years here on this earth and the best answer I have come up with for Anti-Aging is Active Ageing, and weight training in older adults needs to be part of that formula.
Active Ageing isn’t about holding onto your youth — it’s all about maximizing the opportunities of aging and maintaining your independence as you age.
If you speak to a lot of older people (baby boomers) as I do, you will find their biggest grievance is always health-related……and it is so easy to do something about it. You just need to find an activity you can enjoy for the rest of your life…..because that’s how long you’ll need it.
Understanding the Benefits of Strength Training for Older Adults
Dr. Gabe Mirkin, whose medical advice I hold in high esteem, gives us plenty more valid reasons to Exercise as You Grow Older when he says, “Aging can take away much of your quality of life unless you keep your muscles strong enough to perform all of your daily activities.
A regular strength training program will help you to move faster, walk with more security, be less likely to fall and hurt yourself, and have more confidence in every movement of your body.”
And the good Doctor has even More Reasons to Exercise as You Grow Older that I recommend you read as well.
Dr. Mirkin also states in his article, and which I have also proven to be true from my own experience with strength training, “The most effective way to slow down the loss of muscle strength with aging is to start a resistance exercise program that includes using strength-training machines or lifting weights. A review of 25 well-designed and performed scientific studies show that resistance training can grow larger and stronger muscles in older men and women.”
4 good reasons why all seniors should be doing strength training.
1. Maintain and Increase Your Ability to do Normal Daily Activities
If you engage in strength training activities as you age you will be able to keep up with doing all those things like daily chores, carrying the groceries, lifting the grandkids, and even something as simple as taking a shower (and not falling over in the cubicle).
By not doing some form of active aging exercises you are at great risk of losing your independence in your retirement years so I feel that is a good enough incentive to get started……..it is Why Exercising NOW is Vital in Preventing Serious Health Issues Later on in Your Life
2. Muscle Building for Baby Boomers
Physically inactive people lose between 3% to 5% of their muscle mass every decade after turning thirty.
This muscle wasting is sarcopenia at work so you need to have some healthy aging strategies in place and not let your body be overtaken by sarcopenia symptoms.
So you can see why it is so important to develop a properly designed strength training routine so you can avoid muscle loss, and build it instead. And this is easily achievable, even if you are a good few years past thirty.
Regardless of age, it is never too late to start an exercise program which is the only way to reverse the loss of muscle mass from aging.
If you need some ideas on where and how to start exercising then this article will help: 4 Anti-Aging Exercise Ideas to Help Combat the Aging Process.
3. Strength Training Helps Get Rid of High Blood Pressure
If you develop and keep up with a proper strength training routine you have a good chance of reducing your blood pressure back to a normal range, as strength training makes the heart stronger and forces it to pump blood more efficiently.
Lowering your blood pressure has a positive knock-on effect on many other areas of health, too.
4. Weight Training Anti-Aging Benefits for both Men and Women
For starters, it helps to burn fat by burning more calories – and that’s got to be a good thing.
This is very helpful since by the mid-stage of our lives the bigger percentage of people will have found that Diets Don’t Work…….because in their 40’s they have piled on a few extra kilos and tried, often more than once, to get rid of the dreaded belly fat.
Apart from changing your lifestyle habits, an anti-aging exercise program including strength training will help to effectively burn more calories. This means that you will have much more success with shedding unwanted weight in the long term.
Here’s something I found on the over sixty sites worth having a look at The real reason you gain weight as you get older.
And another important benefit, weight or strength training, is also great for improving your self-esteem and how you feel about yourself.
4 Quick Tips for Starting a Strength Training Program:
1. Always get the advice of your doctor before you start working out. This is even more important if you haven’t exercised for a few years, are over the age of 50, or have some form of lifestyle disease.
2. Don’t go too hard when starting out…….your body is not ready for it yet. You have to get your tendons, ligaments and muscles ready for what’s coming ahead…….you need to be thinking fitness without any injuries.
Exercise is all about longevity so start your training two to three days a week slowly increasing up to at least four or five days per week. Staying active is the key……just keep moving.
Building muscle after 70 is still quite achievable as I have proven to myself and many others (much to their amazement).
To give you an example below is a video of me doing 50 superman push-ups……
……but be warned…….this is not an exercise for beginners.
It requires months of dedicated training and a huge amount of core and back strength plus it can be quite brutal on the body……..probably why many people call it a 1%’er.
That is, usually, only about 1% of people in any given gym can do this exercise.
I am showing you this video simply as proof that building muscle as you age is certainly achievable – you just have to be prepared to put in a little bit of time and effort each day to start seeing some incredibly impressive results.
It also reinforces my theory that core exercises for seniors are a must as the core is often the weakest link in your body. Among other things, it connects the top and bottom of your body together and has a huge bearing on your posture and balance.
Good core strength and stability are a must for an aging body.
My short video below is one of my ways of helping motivate and inspire people to change their views about the benefits, as well as the need, to exercise as you age. Starting is what’s stopping most people. So, get started NOW.
You don’t have to do what I do, you just have to make sure that you do something, but it is also good to know just how far you can go at our age.
In the end, it’s all about Sitting, Exercise and Premature Death – How To Make Sure You Are Not One of the Statistics.
3. Always pay close attention to proper form when doing resistance exercises. This way you will help to prevent injury by doing an exercise incorrectly.
4. And always keep in mind that when you are strength training it should never cause you pain. If you experience any pain stop straight away.
One of the more common myths of exercise comes from the old and outdated saying of “No Pain, No Gain” and it is not something I agree with at all; especially as you get older. Regardless of what others may tell you, working out should not hurt.
Although, it is normal for your muscles to feel a bit sore for a day or two after a good workout – I just want people to understand that when a body part (muscle or joint) hurts during the course of an exercise set then it is time to back off and avoid any injuries.
Don’t let these odd bouts of pain deter you from pushing ahead with your training……..just accept that we all get some form of pain from time to time. Remember, the benefits of strength training for older adults are enormous and will far outweigh the inconvenience of the odd bit of pain.
To sum up, Starting a Strength Training Program for Seniors:
1. Whatever you decide to do make sure it is low impact – your exercise program needs to be friendly to ageing joints, tendons, and ligaments.
2. Find something you like doing – you are going to be doing it for years not months so to get results you need something you can stick with and that will keep you interested week in week out.
3. Don’t be afraid to mix up weights with some cardio – your heart needs some exercise too.
4. Do some simple balance exercises between sets while you are recovering – if you can’t stand on one leg for 15 seconds you know you have some problems (it is harder with your eyes shut). Because of the symptoms of sarcopenia, the decreasing muscle mass and joint flexibility mean your balance can suffer as you get older leaving you open to falls which often result in broken hips and loss of independence.
Here’s some motivation for you about hip fractures and why you don’t want, what is often a death sentence, happening to you.
The article posted in the Conversation states, “One in three adults aged 50 and over dies within 12 months of suffering a hip fracture. Older adults have a five to eight times higher risk of dying within the first three months of a hip fracture compared to those without a hip fracture. This increased risk of death remains for almost ten years.”
If you don’t know where to start then below are some links to a good selection of videos that will be enough to get you started off on the right foot. I suggest starting off doing 20 minutes a day 5 days a week and as you get stronger work up to at least 40 minutes per session.
More is always better but don’t overdo things and keep your form good at all times as that’s when you will get an injury. This journey is all about longevity and independence so you can enjoy life to the fullest.
4 Simple Fitness Rules for Seniors to Live By:
1. Never miss a Monday
2. Never go 3 days without exercise
3. Workout at least 3 days a week – 5 days is better
4. Never give up.
“Ageing is out of your control. How you handle it though, is in your hands.” – Diane Von Furstenberg
It doesn’t matter what age you happen to be, it’s never too late to incorporate strength training into your weekly fitness routine – you just need to be willing to adapt it according to your specific circumstances, and don’t forget to obtain the OK from your family doctor before starting this type of anti-ageing program.
For seniors starting an exercise program you first have to assess your needs, your current capabilities, and then the risks involved so seek some professional advice before starting out.
By regularly engaging in a fitness program to make sure your body stays strong you will be helping to maintain your independence for many years to come because it’s been proven that resistance exercise reverses aging in human skeletal muscle.
It is also very important to recognize the fact that one of the strongest predictors of longevity is fitness.
But I believe that in this day and age it’s not enough just to live longer. The goal is to approach your 80’s and 90’s living a full and active life and not living in a long-term care facility with little quality of life.
Now that’s certainly worth thinking about, don’t you think?
And just to reinforce what I have said above and helped motivate you to start a suitable active ageing exercise program for seniors, have a read of this excellent New York Times article: The Power of Everyday Activity.
Exercise scientist Steven Blair who, as well as holding other positions as a public health specialist, is a former president of the American College of Sports Medicine and has been researching the health benefits of physical activity for more than 25 years so is well qualified to advise on how you can gain optimal health by active ageing.
And another health and longevity fact worth considering is the well-proven notion that muscle loss is caused by inactivity – I call it resting and rusting.
Dr Gabe Mirkin confirms this when he says, “Even short periods of inactivity cause dramatic loss of muscle size and strength.” In his article, Dr. Mirkin goes on to say, ” If you have to stop exercising for even just a few days because of an injury, vacation, or illness, expect to lose strength and endurance. When you resume exercising, you should do some form of strength training to regain your lost strength.”
Also, read Strength Training Guidelines by Dr. Mirkin.
So just another piece of evidence to help convince you that strength training is of paramount importance to stop the loss of muscle mass and eventually your loss of independence.
In conclusion, I believe that you shouldn’t exercise to punish yourself, you should exercise because it’s like a celebration of what your body can do. So the more you exercise the more you can celebrate.
Cheers – John – your Active Ageing Mentor and Coach.
P.S. Help a friend get started in strength training for better health, fitness, longevity, and independence in later life – like and share. Thanks.
“That which is used develops; that which is not wastes away.” – Hippocrates
I rest my case – strength training for seniors is a mandatory part of the aging process if you want to retain your independence while you are still above the grass.
You’ll never regret exercising, but you’ll always regret not exercising.
P.P.S. Here is something else you might like to top up on about sarcopenia before you go: 5 Causes of Sarcopenia and How to Prevent Sarcopenia.
And you might also like this article too: 11 Benefits of Strength Training That Have Nothing to Do With Muscle Size.
Plus something else important here from Seniors Matter: Muscle Weakness with Age: What’s Normal and What can be done about it?