In a previous post I covered the causes of sarcopenia and discussed how the muscle loss associated with age can effect our health and quality of life. In this article I will go over how resistance exercises can help us avoid or reverse this.
The medical community has shown that all healthy adults benefit from some type of exercise which will raise their pulse for at least ten minutes at a time. This should be done for a total of at least 30 minutes a day 3 – 5 days a week.
This is known as endurance exercise and while the benefits are many, improved cardiovascular health, strengthened joints, increased mental sharpness, increased metabolism and more energy come to mind, this kind of exercise really does little to build muscle so is ineffective at fighting the loss of muscle mass.
To prevent or reverse losing muscle mass requires some kind of resistance training, exercises that cause the muscle to work against an opposing force. This causes the muscles to grow or at least not decline. An added benefit is that it also helps the bones retain their strength and density.
In a study of women aged 50 to 70, the women who strength trained gained 1% more bone density in the hip and spine while the group that did not lift weights lost 2.5 % bone density. Those who trained had strength increases from about 35 to 76% above the control group. Balance improved 14% and general physical activity increased by about 27%. – About.com
Resistance training is optimally done using weights but the typical weights found at the gym can be subsituted at home by using cans from the pantry, milk jugs filled with water or even socks filled with sand. It’s important to note here though that the stronger one gets the more resistance one will need in order for the training to remain effective.
A lot of older people that I know swim on a regular basis. Swimming is an excellent resistance exercise and it combines the benefits of endurance exercise.
Another good choice is resistance bands. They’re cheap, portable and can be stored in a drawer.
Whatever your choice make sure you incorporate some resistance and strength training, 8 to 10 exercises of 8 to 12 repetitions, twice a week into your fitness plan.
Next time I’ll cover some examples of the best exercises for resistance training for those over 50.