Do you know muscles are your first line of defense against falls, mobility loss, and bone fractures?
Don’t have wrong notion that strong muscles are just for male bodybuilders or younger adults. Women and men in their 60s and beyond too need to conserve and build muscle strength.
To live longer is not the only thing you should aim for. More important is to do so independently! And muscle strength is the most important factor for living an independent life in your golden years.
Read on here to find why muscles strength declines as you age, why and how strong muscles help you improve mobility, balance and prevent falls in old age, how to preserve and rebuild muscles power and tips about adding weight to your exercise routine.
Why You Need Strong Muscles As You Age?
Strengthening muscles helps you maintain health and enable you live a longer independent life in the following ways:
- Improving Balance: You need good balance to do almost everything that involves physical movement, including walking, getting out of a chair, and leaning over to tie your shoes. And for good balance and many other things that you do every day, you need strong muscles. This involves doing exercises that strengthen your muscles, which in turn helps to keep you upright with stronger legs and core.
2. Averting Falls: Muscles strengthening exercises can help prevent falls by improving your ability to control and maintain your body’s position, whether you are moving or still. With weak leg and core muscles you are more likely to get off-balance and fall.
3. Improving Mobility: Preserving strong muscles is an important factor to remain mobile, which is essential for enjoying an independent active life in your old age. Many studies have shown that people who have trouble doing everyday activities like walking, climbing stairs, or getting up from a chair experience faster deterioration in health.
4. Preventing Fractures: Falls are the most common cause for fractures in old age. Fractures can result in to surgery, hospitalization, and loss of mobility, as well as they make you bedridden for prolonged period.
5. Lowering Risk Of Diabetes: Aerobic exercise has long been recommended for reducing diabetes risk. Lately, studies have found that muscle-strengthening exercises also help men and women avoid this life-style disease.
6. Averting Osteoarthritis: Exercise is best way to reduce pain and improve mobility in people who already are suffering from osteoarthritis, but some studies have also shown that strength training might also help avert the disease. The reason is strong muscles decrease the load on joints.
Why Your Muscles Weaken As You Age?
Beginning in your 30s – you gradually lose muscle mass as you age. The rate of this “muscle-waning” accelerates as you age. Though the exact reasons for this muscle loss aren’t fully known. But this has been shown that if one stays inactive and doesn’t exercise, by his or her 60s and 70s a substantial amount of muscle mass and muscle strength are lost.
Not only the amount, the quality of your muscles also goes down the hill with age. The muscles start getting smaller and moreover the fat content inside your muscles also increase. Such fat leads to poor strength, decline in power and impaired physical function.
How To Conserve And Regain Muscle Strength?
You can boost up muscle quality and build strength with a combo of healthy diet and workout. You should have a generally well-balanced diet in order to achieve stronger and healthier body. Try to get enough vitamin D from foods, from the sun, and from a supplement if you are deficient and your doctor advises so.
Strengthening muscles through exercise doesn’t necessarily mean hitting the gym and weightlifting. Studies have shown a combination of strength and speed of movement works equally good for improving physical function.
I suggest that the elderly should do following power exercises in order to stay fit and strong to carry on their everyday activities and live independently without looking for help from any one:
(i) Getting up and down from a chair without using your arms as fast as they can (preferably body weight squats if possible).
(ii) Climbing a flight of stairs as fast as they can.
(iii) Interval training on an exercise bike, alternating a steady pace with quick bursts of speed.
Note: Aim for a speed that’s fast for you, but refrain from pushing yourself very hard, i.e., beyond your limits or to the point of pain.
Adding Weights To Your Exercise Routine
I suggest that you incorporate weight into your workout if you can. Here is an excellent post on “Weight Training For Seniors”.
To strengthen the muscles of your arms and legs, you can also lift light- weights (1 to 5 pounds).
Alternatively, you can go for a “weight exercise vest”. It’s an excellent tool for seniors who want to do weight training. It can be worn during cardio and strength training sessions to improve your muscle strength and power. It distributes the weight around your trunk and doesn’t put too much strain on your joints.
Tip: Try to avail opportunities to engage in activities that require you to climb stairs, carry groceries, and walk. They are the simplest and great ways to improve your physical endurance.
Are you doing any weight training to conserver your muscles? Please share what exercises you are doing under the comments section below.