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Weight Training for Healthy Aging

July 22, 2019

Aging is a complex process that involves the interaction of many different variables including genetics, lifestyle, environment, disease etc. As we age it becomes more and more difficult to maintain good health with a number of physical and functional changes contributing to an increased risk of frailty, chronic disease and disability. 1 It is therefore important to focus on lifestyle factors that can positively influence our health, such as weight training.

‘Weight training’ also known as  ‘resistance training’ is a specific mode of exercise that involves the body’s muscles contracting against an external resistance. The resistance can be provided by weighted bars, dumbbells, machines, things you would typically see in a gym, however it can also be provided by things in your home; including groceries, grandchildren and even your own body weight.  The resistance acts as a stress placed on the body in which the body reacts to by laying down more muscle, increasing strength and supporting ligaments, tendons and connective tissue to ensure it is strong encase this form of stress happens again.

Resistance training is known to have the biggest impact on a condition known as Sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is the age related loss of muscle mass and strength which is characterised by a loss of muscle mass of 3-5% each decade from age 30. 2 This means that as people age it becomes more and more difficult to do many tasks such as; lift groceries, climb stairs, perform housework or gardening, cross the street quickly enough to keep up with the traffic lights or even pick up grandchildren, due to a significant loss of strength. This condition is one of the most prevalent causes of functional decline and loss of independence in older adults and is strictly correlated with physical disability, struggles with activities of daily living and poor quality of life3. Progressive resistance training has been shown to prevent loss of muscle mass and strength in older individuals.  Research has shown that resistance training programs of 3 to 6 months or even longer can result in increase muscle strength by an average of 40% to 150%, depending on the subject characteristics and intensity of the program, resulting in maintenance of independence and activities of daily living.4

Research has also demonstrated the benefits of strength training include; improvements to chronic conditions such as diabetes, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, dyslipidemia, low back pain and obesity, as well as improved sleep quality, falls reduction and many more, some studies have even gone as far as to correlate strength with reduced risk of mortality. 1

It is therefore extremely important to perform resistance training at any age to promote healthy aging. It is recommended that older adults complete two or more sessions per week of muscle strengthening exercise, focusing on the major muscle groups, with focus on high-intensity resistance training to increase and maintain muscle function.4 There is no age at which resistance training is no longer effective or safe if performed correctly. Furthermore age should not be considered as a barrier to performing resistance training, it should be considered the one of the primary reasons of prescription.

 

By Amy Davis

References

  1. SEGUIN R. The benefits of strength training for older adults. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2003;25(3):141-149.
  2. Wang C, Bai L. Sarcopenia in the elderly: Basic and clinical issues. Geriatrics & Gerontology International. 2012;12(3):388-396.
  3. Santilli V. Clinical definition of sarcopenia. Clinical Cases in Mineral and Bone Metabolism. 2014;.
  4. Fiatarone Singh M. Exercise and aging. Clinics in Geriatric Medicine. 2004;20(2):201-221.
  5. WHO | Physical Activity and Older Adults [Internet]. Who.int. 2018 [cited 1 September 2018].

 


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