You just might start to see a few more seniors lifting weights at the local gym in the future if the researchers can just get people to listen. Of course, this is not entirely new advice but every so often a compelling study comes out that really accentuates the benefits.
In their research showing, Effect of Structured Physical Activity on Prevention of Major Mobility Disability in Older Adults, the Journal of the American Medical Association found that Seniors that weight train develop stronger bone mass and slow the process of age related muscle loss (sarcopenia). This drastically reduces the chances of fractures that come with falls.
No surprise there, stronger bones and the muscles that support them can maintain posture and balance better and react quicker to unstable situations. This doesn’t mean your grandmother should start twerking on the dance floor or that grandpa can bench press the grandkids. No, we have to keep some perspective here. The strength they need for a healthy lifestyle is relative to their body weight and activity level.
They may still have a 20 year old mind but chances are they have lost a significant amount of strength and muscle mass. Just how much? Ready for this? Physically inactive people can lose as much as 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each decade after age 30.
Whattt? Okay, so do the math, if you just turned 60 that means you’ve already lost up to 15% of your muscle. If that happens to be the muscle you need to carry a case of beer up the stairs you better opt for delivery. Even the fittest and strongest specimens on the planet can’t turn back the clock. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jean Claude Van Damne, and countless others are mere shadows of their former muscular selves.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Getting stronger while offsetting the degenerative processes of osteoporosis as you age may be a little easier than you think. There is also now a way to measure the results: body composition analysis through measuring bioelectrical impedance.
The Evolt 360 looks much like a body weight scale but also measures electrical conductivity through various parts of the body, identifying muscle tissue, fatty tissue, and many other factors. This enables the user to get a detailed (up to 40 metrics) analysis of body composition and overall health.
In two different studies—one of men 50-70 years of age who lifted weights three times a week for 16 weeks, and the other of women 40-70 years of age who lifted twice a week for one year, bone density in the leg and back was shown to increase.
If 2-3 times a week sounds like a lot, it may take a while to get used to-especially compared to a younger version of you. But independence is important as we get older. The ability to walk, bathe, dress yourself, get in and out of bed, and use a toilet are all challenges when you have a failing skeletal muscular system.
A trial from the Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE) group, which included more than 1,600 men and women between the ages of 70 and 89, further bears out the case for seniors weight training. None were regular exercisers and all were relatively frail.
After 2½ years of strength, flexibility, and endurance exercise, 28% fewer became disabled (defined by the inability to walk about 400 yards without help). That’s pretty significant considering the stages of fragility where this group started. So where does that leave you?
Start Here to See Improvement in Strength and Stamina*
- Get at least 150 minutes per week of walking or other moderate intensity exercise
- Do resistance training with weights or machines two or three times a week
- Allow for recovery days in between workouts
- Stretch and do other activities that improve flexibility and balance every day when possible
- Work with enough weight to feel resistance but without muscle strain or pain
Combining the above guidelines with regular body composition analysis reports from the Evolt 360, allows the client to track improvements in muscle mass, bone density, fat loss, and other benefits. An additional advantage the Evolt equipment offers is that the reports make suggestions as to calorie intake, food group choices, and even supplement suggestions to help each individual achieve his or her goals.
* American College of Sports Medicine guidelines.
Strength training should consist of 8 to 12 repetitions working all the major muscle groups: chest, back, shoulders, arms, abdominals, and legs. (A repetition is how many times you lift the weight, pull the rubber tubing, do a pushup, or whatever.)