Most older people are well aware that they need regular aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming, or running, to strengthen their heart and lungs and tone their bodies, but many dismiss resistance training as an activity predominantly for the young. However, it is an extremely important type of exercise for substantially slowing, and even reversing, the declines in muscle mass, bone density, and strength which were once considered inevitable consequences of ageing.
Unlike aerobic, or endurance exercise, which improve cardiovascular fitness and require moving large muscle groups repeatedly against gravity, weights provide so much resistance that muscles gain strength from only a certain number of repetitions.
You shouldn’t experience pain while lifting weights, but it is normal to feel some soreness starting 24 hours after the exercise and lasting for the next 24 hours. Your muscles are challenged by the resistance of a weight causing some of their tissue to break down. As they heal, they gradually increase in strength and size. Although you should be working your muscles until they are fatigued, common sense will dictate when it’s time to stop. If you feel joint or nerve pain, or are putting undue strain on any part of your body, you’re probably going overboard and can harm yourself. Remember that you need expert instruction on any new exercise, particularly when using any specialized equipment, so when considering starting a new resistance program come and visit our Clinic.
What is Resistance Training?
The most common form of resistance training involves the use of free weights or machines to provide resistance. However, you can also gain similar benefits by exercising in water as the water provides the resistance. Clinical Pilates and the use of resistance bands or tubing have increased in popularity over the past decade and is an efficient way to provide resistance exercise without the need of actual weights. The rationale behind the use of these is that they increase their resistance the more they are stretched. This ensures that you experience adequate resistance throughout the entire repetition.
The goal with using weights is to lift a weight, which is heavy enough to achieve 8 to 10 repetitions per session before your muscles become fatigued.
How Does Resistance Training Increase Muscle Mass?
As we age we generally lose muscle strength and mass. This reduction in muscle strength and associated weakness means that as we become older we are more likely to have problems carrying out our daily activities and are more likely to fall.
Anecdotally, the two most problematic consequences of ageing include muscle mass loss and rapid body fat increase. In adulthood, the average basal metabolic rate (BMR) declines 2 – 3 % per decade. Increased body fat is typically the result of declining metabolic rate, muscle mass loss and lowered physical activity level.
However, this loss in strength is attributed to the decrease in our daily physical activity. Unlike other structures in the body such as bones, which are best developed at younger ages; muscle is just as adaptive as we get older as it was when we were young. In fact, neural adaptations occur rapidly and strength gains can occur as early as the second week of exercise.
Limiting muscle mass loss and increasing BMR are the most powerful benefits of participating in a regular resistance-training program.
How Does Resistance Training Improve Balance?
A strong ‘core’ is absolutely vital for maintaining balance. Whether you realize it or not, you hardly make a move without engaging your ‘core’. In general, the core muscles run the length of the trunk and torso, and when they contract they stabilize your spine, pelvis and shoulder girdles to create a solid base of support. With this stability, you are then able to generate powerful movements of the extremities. Whilst the muscles in the limbs produce movement, it is the job of the ‘core’ to oppose undesired secondary movement and maintain balance and stability no matter what position your body is in.
As we age, we have a higher risk of falling. The primary cause being that our muscles are weaker and we may have balance problems. Muscle strength is extremely important in correcting balance during activities of daily living, no matter what intensity. As a result, if you have insufficient strength to correct your position then you are more likely to fall. It is critical to improve or maintain balance so that your risk of falling is kept to a minimum. As we all know, we have to minimize the risk of falling at all costs because the consequences of falling can be catastrophic!
How Does Resistance Training Improve ‘Brain Health?’
Resistance training is not only good for building stronger muscles; it is good for your brain too. It has been suggested that resistance training enhances both brain structure and function, while minimizing cognitive decline and impaired mobility by increasing the levels of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF prevents nerve damage and stimulates the growth of new nerve tissue. While most human nerve cells are formed prior to birth, there are a small number of stem cells that can develop into new nerve cells when stimulated by the BDNF. Diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease involve loss of nerve cells and boosting BDNF through resistance exercise training could help to prevent or slow down progression of these diseases.
How Does Resistance Training Improve Bone Mineral Density?
As we age, our bone density usually decreases. This can lead to Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a major issue in our society and is a determining factor in quality of life. While everyone is at risk of developing Osteoporosis, postmenopausal women are at a higher risk. A consequence of this loss of bone mineral density and muscle mass is an increased risk of falling.
Muscle density has been shown to contribute to the rate of bone density reduction. This is because a person with more muscle mass has typically exposed their bones to greater loads, thus inhibiting the degeneration process. For this reason, the importance of engaging in strength training as a means of preserving as well as increasing muscle mass and strength in more sedentary older individuals should be realized. The effects of resistance training can slow down typical age-related declines in bone health by maintaining or increasing bone mineral density and total bone mineral content.
To sum up!
Try adding some level of resistance training into your weekly routine. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll start to see improvements and your overall health will improve significantly making you feel a whole lot healthier with improved vitality.