Strength training for the senior population- a good investment

Posted: July 3, 2015 in Strength and Conditioning for Health and Fitness
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Along my way to work, I pass by a park beside a bike path near a riverside. It is a nice place to jog and do valstrengthtraining.com elderlycalisthenics. It is interesting that most of the people I meet are the elderly. It is good to see them exercising and socializing at the same time. It reminds me of my grandfather. He was a very strong man when he was younger because his means of livelihood was to make ripraps and aside from that he was also a farmer in the hinterlands. When he was in his late 80’s, he has to walk around in crutches since he lost some control of his legs due to spinal stenosis. But he showed us that he is still very productive and capable. One day I went to visit him but could not find him in his room. I searched around the house and found him fixing the stone steps going up to the chicken coops in the vegetable garden. I realized that he is happy when he is able to move around and be productive. He is able to draw strength from the physical and mental fortitude developed when he was younger.

The situation for city folks would be very different. There is no farm work to be done but there are a lot of other physical activities. Regular physical activity helps to counteract the negative effects of aging. For the elderly, increasing their muscular strength is one way of preventing falls which is a common cause of hip fracture. It also enables them to perform their Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s) independently. But will the elderly see some results with strength training? if yes, how long do they have to train? how many times a week? and how hard?

valstrengthtraining elderly strengthThere is a recently published study which investigated the time it would take for strength and hypertrophy to have significant increase in older adults. The subjects were 14 healthy older adults separated into a control group and a Resistance Training Group (RTG). The RTG trained two times per week for 10 weeks. They did 4 sets x 10 repetitions at an intensity of 70-80% of their 1 Repetition Maximum (RM). The muscle mass of their thigh was measured using ultrasonography on a weekly basis while strength was measured using leg press 1 RM test. This was done before and after the 10 week training period. After 18 sessions, there was a significant 7% increase in the cross sectional area of their thigh muscles. Strength was measured after 10 weeks of training and it showed 42% increase by the RTG. This study proves that there is an actual improvement in strength and muscle mass for older adults after 9 to 10 weeks of Strength Training.

If we look into the current research, it shows that muscle strength is important for the elderly. There is another study that observed the relationship of strength, cardiorespiratory fitness and ease of movement in the elderly. The researchers measured the dynamic strength (1 RM test), isometric strength (maximal voluntary contraction), and rate of force development of 28 men aged 65 years old and above. Peak oxygen uptake, maximal workload, and ventilatory threshold were also measured as well as neuromuscular economy of the vastus lateralis muscle. What they found out was that there is a significant correlation between muscular strength, cardiorespiratory fitness and neuromuscular economy. Their findings indicate that cardiorespiratory fitness and ease of movement is positively affected by muscular strength among people aged 65 years old and above. The implication is that a stronger an elderly is a healthier elderly. And a healthier elderly has better quality of life and is generally happier. Physical strength compliments mental strength which enables them to overcome helplessness due to disease like my grandfather. ADL’s like locomotion would be safer since there is less chance of falling or losing balance. This contributes to overall enjoyment of daily experiences.

Looking at the findings of the above research, it seems pragmatic to improve muscle strength of an elderly individual before asking him or her to taking long walks to improve cardiorespiratory function. As was observed, strength in the elderly can be significantly increased in 10 weeks of strength training. The strength gain helps protect the elderly from falls and fractures which greatly increases safety and efficiency of walking- a very common activity.

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One of the athletes in their mid 50’s who train with me. I was not able to take photo of the other athlete since he was away racing with other guys young enough to be his sons.

10 weeks of properly supervised and executed strength training for the elderly is a short time with a good return of investment. Economic problems caused by expensive hip replacement surgery and endless and costly rehabilitation can be avoided. Enjoyment of daily experiences are enhanced and above all, quality of life is improved. The interaction between the elderly and the Strength Coach would also be beneficial for both. It is always interesting to listen to stories of the old folks and they are given the chance to relive their favorite moments when they were younger. Old folks would also take pride in showing that they are still able to do what younger people can do.

Encouraging the elderly to participate in a supervised strength training for as short as 10 weeks helps prevent health and economic problems. Younger individuals should also start investing in their own health and fitness by improving their fitness levels- their muscular strength, and also cardiorespiratory endurance. The way to do this is to Train Better, Live Better!

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