We probably think that seniors and lifting weights are an unlikely combination. However, as we get older, our physical bodies will naturally experience changes. Our bones may shrink in size and density, our muscles may lose strength and flexibility as well. On average, after you reach the age of 50, your muscle tone declines by 15 percent per decade, leaving you more susceptible to poor balance. Staying active and lifting weights can help slow down the weakening process of your muscles and bones. How? Well, here are the 3 reasons why strength training is important for seniors!
Strength training develops stronger bone mass and slows down the pace of age-related muscle loss (also known as sarcopenia).
Sarcopenia occurs faster once you’ve reached the age of 75, and its symptoms include muscle weakness and loss of stamina. There are several factors that cause sarcopenia (source: https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/guide/sarcopenia-with-aging), which are:
Reduction in nerve cells responsible for sending signals from the brain to the muscles to start movement.
Lower concentrations of some hormones, including growth hormone, testosterone, and insulin-like growth factor.
A decrease in the ability to turn protein into energy.
Not getting enough calories or protein each day to sustain muscle mass.
Weight and resistance training can delay this process by improving endurance, developing range of motion, converting protein to energy, and increasing lung capacity. It also helps with your hormones and neuromuscular system.
Strength training helps provide pain relief, especially for those dealing with arthritis.
By strengthening the muscles, tendons, and ligaments around your joints, weightlifting can significantly improve your range of motion. It can minimize your pain as well by increasing the strength of muscles surrounding the afflicted joint, which eases stress on the joint itself.
Strength training helps you to maintain your independence in doing daily activities and improves your overall well-being.
When you commit to a strength training program, it will improve your endurance and ability to walk. This is important because among seniors, insufficient leg strength is a powerful predictor of future disabilities. Your endurance comes in handy to maintain your independence as well, so that you won’t need to completely rely on other people to do day-to-day activities, such as getting up from a chair, carrying groceries, etc. Weight and resistance training is not only beneficial for your physique, but for your mental health and mood, too! You will feel good about yourself, you can sleep better, and it’s less likely for you to develop depression.
Before jumping in, however, it’s important to talk with a doctor first. Make sure that the workout and exercise program you want to do is suitable for you based on your health conditions and fitness status. Consulting with a healthcare professional will help you determine which exercises to include or avoid to keep your strength-based workouts safe.