The reality is that our bodies change as we get older and the risk of falls and injury increase. Thatís why it is so important to do something as a preventative measure. Now Iím not asking you to become Superman or Wonder Woman and lift ridiculous amounts of weight. Consider a light weight training exercise program that will make you feel stronger, more energetic and have an abundance of health benefits.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) as we age, we need to do strength training (also called weight training or resistance training). This will substantially
slow down and reverse the declines in muscle mass, bone density, and strength. As people grow older, their muscle fibers shrink in number and in size (atrophy) and become less sensitive to messages from the central nervous system. This contributes to a decrease in strength, balance, and coordination. Inactivity is responsible for the majority of age associated muscle loss, but other factors include diet, smoking, alcohol usage and genetics.
The good news is that strength training can reverse much of this decline by increasing the size of atrophied muscle fibers. Free weights or machines provide resistance, but individuals can also get stronger by exercising in water. Aquatics are offered in many gyms and is a fun way to exercise using the resistance of water.
(ACSM) now has fitness guidelines specific to weight training for people over 50. The advice: perform such exercises 2 to 3 times a week to condition all of the major muscle groups—arms, legs, shoulders, and trunk.(the muscles of your abs and back). The goal is to lift a weight that’s heavy enough to achieve 10 to 15 repetitions per session before the muscles become fatigued. For injury prevention it is recommended to do this for 3-4 weeks to build strength before walking long distances or engaging in other aerobic exercises.
Because aerobic activity and strength training are each important for health, the ACSM recommends that able adults do both on a regular basis; 20 to 60 minutes of aerobic activity is advised 3 to 5 days a week and weight training should be done for 20 to 30 minutes 2 to 3 times a week. The guidelines also suggest that people perform stretching exercises—which increase the range of motion, or amount of movement, of joints—a minimum of 2 to 3 times a week.
The benefits of starting and maintaining an exercise program are countless. Increasing bone mass lowers the risk of developing osteoporosis and fractures. Strength training adds more weight to the skeleton by building muscle; this stimulates the bones to strengthen and grow to bear the heavier load on the muscles. Rheumatologists often recommend proper strength training because it doesnít apply stress directly to joints so it is ideal for people with arthritis. Although it cannot reverse arthritic changes, lifting weights helps alleviate symptoms by strengthening the muscles, tendons and ligaments that surround the joints. Additional benefits include independence and strength to do every day tasks, improving mood of mildly to moderately depressed individuals and better sleeping patterns.
Learning proper techniques and form is important to get the most out of the exercise and to insure that the exercises are done safely and accurately. You shouldnít experience pain while exercising. When you begin, a little soreness the next day is normal. As you become more consistent in your exercise program, the soreness will become milder and less frequent. Stretching is important because as you work the muscles they shorten temporarily. They must be stretched out to get back to their natural state. By doing this, it will minimize the amount of soreness. The more flexible you become by proper stretching (slow and gentle, never bouncing) the healthier and more energetic youíll feel performing every day activities.