Strength and Weight Training: Health Benefits for Seniors and Older Adults

Older adults tend to lose muscle and gain weight. A simple weight training program can combat these tendencies and provide other health benefits.

As you get older, your body will naturally tend to lose muscle and strength, you’ll become more prone to falling, and less able to take care of yourself. Even though you may be eating fewer calories than when you were younger, your metabolism slows down, which can lead to weight gain. Losing this weight by cutting calories can be dangerous if you aren’t getting enough nutrition. However, a simple workout program can come to your rescue. Strength training, also known as weight or resistance training, can help you gain muscle strength and lose fat, while improving your health in other areas.

Studies, such as that conducted by Pyka, Lindenberger, Charette and Marcus, indicate older adults who strength train can increase muscle strength rapidly. By becoming stronger, you’ll be less likely to fall and be injured, and more equipped care for yourself; you may be able to stay in your own home longer than you would otherwise.

Strength training offers other health benefits, too. Sequin and Nelson, in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, report that such training can reduce the risk of osteoporosis, along with reducing the symptoms of arthritis, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Your emotional state can improve, as the training can help alleviate sleep problems and depression.

As with any exercise program, check with your physician before you begin. If you aren’t familiar with free weights or strength training machines, you may want to find a gym that offers the equipment and training on its use. Look for a gym that is clean, comfortable and convenient, so that it’s easy and pleasant to go.

You also may want to work with a personal trainer for several sessions. A personal trainer, especially one with experience with older adults, can help you devise an effective strength training program and teach you how to do the various exercises.

Healthy seniors can usually follow the same training protocol as younger adults. For best results, strength training should be done two or three times a week, with a rest period for 48 hours between workouts of a particular muscle group. Ensure your diet is healthy and provides for your nutritional needs. Increase your protein intake to help fuel muscle growth.

Older adults are capable of strength training. This training provides a host of benefits, including muscle strength, fat loss, reducing the risk of osteoporosis, and reducing the symptoms of several chronic diseases, while improving sleep and depression. If you’re a sedentary older adult, check with your physician, find a gym, and take advantage of all strength training offers you.

Sources:

  1. Sequin, R., Nelson, M. E., American Journal of Preventive Medicine (http://www.ajpm-online.net/article/S0749-3797(03)00177-6/abstract)
  2. Pyka, G., Lindenberger, E., Charette, S., Marcus, R., The Journal of Gerontology (http://geronj.oxfordjournals.org/content/49/1/M22.abstract)
  3. http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/194905

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