Maybe you’ve always been a fit person. Maybe you always wanted to be fit, but life and other obligations got in the way. The good news is that there’s always time to work on a strength-building program, even when you’re 55 or older.
What’s that? You’d rather focus on getting your steps in around the neighborhood? Weights are scary, and you’re intimidated by the grunting folks in the free-weights section of the local gym? We get it. But strength training is as important, if not more important, than cardiovascular exercises at this age. Integrating strength training into your regular exercise routine results in better balance, greater self-esteem, potential weight loss and the ability to carry your groceries from the car in just a couple of trips and without needing a “break.” Sounds good, right? Read on for why strength training is beneficial for seniors.
Why is it important?
As you age, your body experiences changes and declines that can lead to disability, frailty and falls. With each passing year, our bodies naturally lose muscle mass and strength, a condition known as sarcopenia. You may notice that you have less energy and aren’t as light on your feet as you used to be.
Strength training counteracts these effects of aging. You’ll have more energy and an easier time maintaining a healthy weight. Strength training can also help stabilize glucose levels and improves your balance.
But I still feel strong!
You may not realize it, but your muscle mass naturally peaked when you were in your 20s. Even if you’ve stayed active, chances are you’ve experienced the 3% to 5% muscle loss most adults have each decade after age 30. You lose strength even faster than you lose muscle tone, and fat starts to invade your muscles. Your muscles may also have fewer nerve cells available to tell the body to move.
Don’t give up, though. Your body still responds to strengthening exercises, which slows the decline and even helps you regain muscle mass.
What’s the best way to start?
No need to reinvent the wheel. Strength training has some basic guidelines, regardless of age. You want to challenge your body to work harder than it’s used to working, but you don’t want to hurt yourself. Start small and increase the weight gradually as you become more comfortable. Here’s a hint: If you can easily perform three sets of eight repetitions, you’re ready to add more weight. Shoot for strength training three or four nonconsecutive days weekly.
If the free-weight side of the gym seems overwhelming, consider using exercise machines designed to guide you through the motions needed to increase your muscle strength. You can also exercise at home with dumbbells and resistance bands.
This is intimidating. Where can I get help?
Many facilities, such as Hancock Wellness centers, offer personal training, small-group training and group fitness classes. Consider investing in a trainer who will listen to your concerns and devise a routine to address them safely. And, as always, consult your doctor before starting any new exercise routine.
Strength training has no age limit. If you’re looking for ways to integrate strength training into your life, contact a Hancock Wellness Center now for membership options and tips.