Strength + Stability + Mobility = Performance for Seniors
Since we are living longer with access to good healthcare, maintaining a healthy active lifestyle is important to staying independent as we get older. The fastest growing age group in the country is 80 years old and up. We have 65,000 centenarians in this country. Older Americans are now a powerful force in the economy and healthcare. They control 75% of the disposable income. Fortunately, more people who are age 40+ believe that exercise is important. They are right.
While we have always thought brisk walking was sufficient to exercise for older adults, there’s another component that often gets overlooked: strength training. A study done in Boston showed that both muscle strength and endurance improved in people in their 90s who did strength training. Their strength improved as much as 174%. This proves that you can get better no matter your age.
There was a World War II veteran who wanted to go to the Pearl Harbor Anniversary, but he had trouble walking. He hired a personal trainer to get stronger. Not only did he get stronger, but he put on 20 pounds at the age of 101. Yes, that’s right – 101 years old.
One of the most frequent things I hear is “my joints ache, and I can’t exercise.” Your joints can hurt for multiple reasons as you get older. If you have weak muscles, that puts more stress on the joints. Weak muscles can also affect your balance and mobility as well. Being physically deconditioned catches up to us. One of the best ways to prevent arthritis is to keep muscles strong and maintain a healthy body weight. 68% of adults are overweight, and carrying extra weight adds stress to arthritic joints.
Even those with artificial joints can do weight training along with other low-impact activities. I have a client with double knee replacement and she trains three days a week with me in addition to walking. She and her husband have trained with me for several years now. Both of them are very active and like to travel. They are in their late 60s, but you would never know it. I have an 82-year-old client who is very inspiring. Age is no obstacle! I’m almost 61 years old myself and still work out 5 days a week which I have done most of my life. I still have the strength of people half my age.
The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week for seniors. That should also include strength training at least two days a week to start, and eventually three days a week. This is something that I encourage all my clients to do. Weight training makes a huge difference in being able to have a healthy, active lifestyle as we get older.
If you have coronary heart disease, both the American Heart Association and American College of Sports Medicine recommend a minimum of 30 to 60 minutes of moderate activity 4 to 5 times a week. Of course, anyone with cardiovascular problems should always check with your cardiologist to help advise the trainer exactly what you need to do to improve your health.
Physical activity has also been found to have a positive effect on cancer patients. They gave my father six months to live when they found his cancer. He lived 11 more good years. He exercised daily even when he felt bad. He maintained healthy eating habits along with the physical activity and kept a positive attitude. I think his positive attitude is one of the big reasons he did so well.
Being in good shape may also help you recover from surgery faster. A lot of people who are unfit or deconditioned are prone to complications or even worse. I had a friend who was deconditioned when he went into the hospital with pneumonia and he never made it. Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle strength and function that can occur as we age, but we have found that a combination of resistance training and a healthy nutritional plan can prevent it.
Supplements can also improve one’s physical aspect immensely. I’ll go into greater detail in another article, but here are a few things we’ve learned about supplements. As we age, we don’t absorb nutrients as well as we used to, so a good digestive enzyme helps. Most people who are older have problems with absorption. Many people are low in vitamin D. This deficiency causes calcium to not be well absorbed. Taking vitamin D and calcium together helps to maintain bone strength which is important for everyone, but especially women to help prevent and treat osteopenia and osteoporosis. Weak bones can lead to broken bones, and that can lead to a decline in the quality of life.
Another important supplement is omega-3 fatty acids. Dr. Barry Sears has written a book on the benefits of omega-3s. I myself take 10-11 grams a day. The EPA in omega-3s is considered an anti-inflammatory, and the DHA is known to be good for the brain. DHA is so important for brain health that they add it to baby formula. Another good supplement is ZMA, zinc and magnesium aspartate. It has been shown to increase strength and help increase REM sleep. HMB, hydroxy-B-methyl butyrate, is a compound used by bodybuilders which have been shown to reduce muscle wasting and damage. This would be helpful to people who are older to help slow down the effects of sarcopenia.
I have all my clients begin weight training within their ability and then make increases as they improve. Exercise has a positive benefit on one’s quality of life. We know that you can slow down sarcopenia and improve muscle strength 25 to 100%. As you can see, it’s never too late to start an active, stronger, and awesome lifestyle. Let’s get started together either one-on-one or online where I can send you everything on your smartphone or tablet.
There’s no excuse for not having time. You don’t want to be sitting there someday saying woulda, shoulda, or coulda, while everybody else is having a great, active life. We all want to be healthier as we grow older and not be sick. One of the keys to doing that is getting out there and exercising. I look forward to speaking with you about your journey to a better lifestyle.
Strength + Mobility + Stability = Performance in Life and Sports. No matter how old you are.