Forget that rocking chair
WHAT changes in our bodies should we expect with “normal” ageing? Are these changes reversible – or able to be kept from occurring?
Research suggests that one of the largest problems facing the older adult is loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia). This particularly affects older women, but males show similar losses. A loss in muscle mass also causes a loss in strength. This loss in strength can be severe. One study reported that 40% of women aged 55-64 year, and a staggering 65% of 75-84 year olds didn’t have the strength to lift a 4.5kg weight! Playing with your grandchildren, travelling with a suitcase, and doing grocery shopping won’t be a reality for these folks. Many older people are so weak they don’t have the strength to lower themselves into or get up out of a chair or walk up stairs.
Falls and fractures are common – these can be serious, and even fatal in unwell, inactive older people. What causes sarcopenia? Simple – the use it or you’ll lose it principle tells all. In Western societies we seem to cherish the idea of graceful ageing. Taking a well-earned rest and relaxing in retirement is fine – but do it in between activities and strength training.
A lack of physical activity and too much time in the rocking chair causes the loss in strength with ageing. This in turn makes it harder for people to be active leading to further strength losses. What we end up with is a vicious nasty downward spiral that leaves pop and gran unable to use their bodies to do normal life activities with ease. How can we reverse this downward spiral?
Easy – get active and get strength training.
The fountain of youth is at your local gym
STRENGTH training is superb for maintaining muscle mass – keeping sarcopenia from the door. Muscle is the tissue that burns most of the calories we consume – so expect to lose some weight, look and feel better once you start weight training. Bones also get stronger in response to weight training – this reduces the risks of serious injuries like hip fractures from falls. (See the next section for key exercises). Strength training does make a difference – and it’s big. Studies have reported 200-300% gains in strength with 3-4 months of strength training. These gains are far greater than younger adults you expect to achieve. Likewise, gains of 10-30% in aerobic fitness have reported with cardiovascular training programmes in older populations.
Key exercises for the older population
Lunges – especially multi-directional lunges (lunging at different angles)
These help with leg strength and balance
An essential exercise to reduce the risk of injury from falling Squats
The “king” of leg strength exercises Aids in balance and flexibility
Never get stuck in your armchair again Overhead pushing and pulling exercises
These may need to be paired up with exercises/stretches that help straighten out the upper back and stretch around the shoulders
People often forget these movements but life exists above head height Specific core strengthening and balance exercises
The abdominal area has a vital role to play in movement. Incontinence is a massive problem for the older population – specific abdominal training may be required here.
Balance work to reduce the risk of falls is also high on our priority list. Upper body weights
Aim for increasing muscle mass in these areas – don’t worry you won’t bulk up too much. Big pushing and pulling exercises are ideal. To conclude, aging is a natural process, but being ill or injured from extreme inactivity and muscle weakness is not.
The older body can show huge improvements in strength and fitness with weight training and aerobic activity.
By being active and weight training you will extend your quality of life and be able to move around trouble free for longer.
If you’re looking to rewind the clock on ageing please give me a call on (07) 54793411 – Hamish (Kaizen Exercise Physiologist)