Want to Maintain Your Independence in Your Golden Years? Strength Training is the Key

All too often we stress cardiovascular strength as we age. It’s important to take brisk walks, sometimes twice per day, take the stairs rather than the elevator when you can, use the treadmill, and perhaps even engage in some hiking.

But aging, while it has its benefits like being wiser and richer, for instance, can have its downside. Due to chemical and biological changes that occur naturally in the body over time, your muscle structure tends to atrophy, and along with it, you become weaker (so do your bones).

But it doesn’t have to be this way. According to a recent report by Healthline, when you get older, you naturally develop concerns about your mobility, overall balance, and strength. But by introducing resistance and weight training into your stretching and cardio routines, you will not only become stronger, but you will become healthier. This concept holds true whether you’re 55 or 85.

The Impact of Aging on the Body

Too many healthy middle-aged and older folks, age is simply a new number that arrives every 365 days. But physical changes are inevitable for both men and women as you get older. The changes can have a profound effect on your overall health. These changes include the following:

Decrease in Range of Motion: You might have already noticed that your knees, hips, and shoulders don’t move as easily as they once did. Because you are aging, full range of motion or the full movement of a joint can decrease due to loss of muscle mass, arthritic, changes in connective tissue, and more.

A recent study published in the Journal of Aging Research showed that hip flexion flexibility and shoulder abduction in adults aged 55-86 can decrease up to six degrees. But adults who regularly followed a regimented training program that included weight and strength training were said to experience less age-related loss of flexibility. Maintaining your flexibility is said to have a significant positive impact on your life.

Loss of Strength: A decline in physical strength is said to be another sign of aging. Research indicates that muscle mass begins to decrease three to eight percent per decade after age 30. The rate increases after age 60.

The same research also illustrates that muscle mass decreases naturally by three to eight percent every decade after 30 and increases after age 60. Muscle mass and strength are therefore directly related.

Loss of muscle mass is a phenomenon known in medical circles as sarcopenia. It is the result of several natural factors including a decline in physical activity, hormonal changes, plus an unbalanced diet that’s low in protein and calories. As you age, so does your appetite.

Decrease in Balance: if your balance isn’t what it once was and you find yourself tripping and falling far more often than when you were young, there’s a physiological explanation for it.

Physical balance is maintained by utilizing your vestibular system or the inner structure of the ears. It also comes from your eyesight, and from the neurological feedback from joints located in the knees, ankles, and spine. All these systems send signals to the brain to assist your body with maintaining proper balance while you walk, run, ski, or however you choose to spend your day.

But as you age the signals slow down and the neurological communication between brain and muscle is not as effective. Cognitive abilities begin to decline, mobility decreases, and joints stiffen.

One of the ways to combat physical age-related concerns — plus maintain range of motion, strength, and balance — is to incorporate consistent strength training into your weekly routine.

Benefits of Strength Training as You Age

Want to maintain your independence in your golden years? Assuming the answer is a resounding yes, you’ll need to be aware of the benefits of strength training.

Increased Bone Density: When you train with weights, you put stress on your bones from the force patterns and movement, which causes your bones to form new cells. The bones become denser and therefore stronger.

Increased Muscle Mass: By putting on more muscle you will get stronger, attain better balance, and increase your overall metabolism. A recent study showed that by engaging in a training program with a certified trainer which included strength training, older adults were able to increase their muscle mass and strength by a whopping 30 percent.

Better Functionality and Balance: Simply said, possessing strong muscles contributes to a better quality of life. Even simple everyday activities like bending over to tie your shoes, or reaching for an item on a shelf require a certain amount of flexibility and strength. For older adults who refuse to engage in physical training, the risk of falling and catastrophic injury increases dramatically.

Body Composition Improvements: By maintaining significant muscle mass, you decrease the likely hood of water retention, diabetes, and obesity. Each of these ailments can, at worst, contribute to an early death if left unchecked, or at best, create a poor quality of life. Which leads us to…

Improving Your Quality of Life: Older adults who are actively engaging in a regular resistance training routine several days per week, will not only experience profound improvements in their body but also in their psychosocial well-being.

In the final analysis, no one ever said getting older was easy. But you don’t have to sacrifice quality of life just because the clock is perpetually ticking. By engaging in a strength training routine with a certified trainer several times per week, you will improve your body and your mind dramatically.

--Mary Clark, Certified Personal Trainer

Mary Clark is a recently retired and decorated Colonel in the New York State Troopers. One of the highest-ranking female law enforcement officials in New York State, she served for more than three decades. Today she devotes herself to helping others achieve their life goals through a combination of physical fitness, achieving an optimal mindset, and life balance.

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