Updated: Sep 1, 2020
Resistance training is essential for active aging and longterm independence. Resistance training interventions can improve physical functioning and sport performance, essential for fitness, boost mobility and balance important for fall and injury prevention, manage chronic disease, and can positively affect psychological well-being and quality of life. Older adults with various levels of function, fitness and health status will benefit from resistance training, from the superager older athlete to the older adult that has difficulty walking to the front door.
How resistance training can help older adults?
Resistance training or strength training is beneficial and safe for healthy older adults when using correct exercise techniques. An evidence-based program designed for strong results includes progressive resistance training 2 - 3 times per week, up to 2 - 3 sets per exercise and include 8 - 10 exercises for the major muscles and performing 10-15 repetitions progressing to 6 - 12 repetitions. For older adults with medical conditions, a medical release for exercise maybe necessary to make sure exercise is safe. Most beneficial is receiving an exercise program that is individually tailored and addresses the older adult’s specific medical issue(s) and meets his or her unique need.
Avoiding frailty while aging
Anyone, young or old, can experience frailty, which is the loss of some physical function and can result from various causes and is most common among older adults. Frail individuals experience the following conditions; chronic medical conditions; loss of a sensory system; changes in medical, mental/emotional, or functional fitness status; age-related muscle loss (called sarcopenia); falls; or a sedentary lifestyle and people are at high risk of complications during medical treatment or illness and have prolonged recovery times, hospital re-admissions.
The clinical definition of frailty is defined as a clinically recognizable state of increased vulnerability resulting from aging-associated decline in reserve and function across multiple physiologic systems such that the ability to cope with everyday or acute stressors is comprised. Frailty has been defined as meeting three out of five criteria indicating compromised energetics: low grip strength, low energy, slowed waking speed, low physical activity, and/or unintentional weight loss.
Prevention is cheaper than treatment.
How loss of muscle effects the body
A gradual loss of muscle generally begins after age 30. Fragile et al. states that 10% of sedentary adults over the age of 60 show meaningful muscle loss and 50% of inactive older adults over 80 show a notable muscle loss and is highly associated with the development off disability, falling and fracture, type 2 diabetes, cognitive decline, osteoporosis and premature death. The CDC states that one in four older adults 65 years and older falls annually, and the number of falls increase by age, 50% of adults 80 and older fall annually. Inactivity, too much sitting, bed rest reduces muscle strength quickly, reduces energy levels and stamina, reduction in bone density making you at increased risk of losing balance, falling and fracture and can lead to frailty.
Combatting aging and frailty
Exercise in frail individuals increases functional performance, walking speed, chair stand, stair climbing, and balance, and decreased depression and fear of falling.
Beginning an exercise program that includes resistance training for muscle strength, muscle power, and muscular endurance is the best strategy to counteract declines in muscle mass and strength, cardiorespiratory fitness, neuromuscular function and functional capacity in older people. Functional training that accompanies resistance training and includes movement patterns similar to an older adult’s daily activities can improve and ease daily living.
Solo agers and resistance training
Solo agers are older adults who do not have a spouse, children nearby or anyone else for help and are for the most part dependent on themselves. With many older adults aging alone, resistance training is a must to protect the ability to perform daily- and recreational- activities, functional independence for as long as possible, and to extend quality of life as well longevity.
Most resistance training injuries among older adults occur among inexperienced exercisers. These injuries appear related to repeated performance of heavy-loaded exercises, poor exercise technique and inappropriate exercise selection. Special care must be taken training the shoulder, knees, hip and spine. Additionally, medical conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, balance disorders, Parkinson’s disease, MS, orthopedic problems etc. require targeted exercise training. The more medical issues you have and the more severe these conditions, the more qualified a personal trainer needs to be, and you may benefit from physical therapy for conditions that are outside the scope of practice of a personal trainer.
From superager athlete to the older adult needing assistance
Remember that your training program should be safe, effective, and improve, or better manage all or most of your medical issues and minimize the risk for injury during training, and minimize injury while participating in activities of daily living and other recreational activities. Hire an accredited fitness professional with the appropriate credentials for training someone with your health, fitness and/or medical conditions. When you have questions about this subject please contact us at email@example.com or call 503-267-1030