Sept. 2013
Strength Training for Seniors
by Richard Wood BS, CSCS
Losing muscle mass, metabolism, and bone density are accepted signs of aging. They should not be! These age related symptoms are also signs of inactivity. Turn back the clock? Maybe not. We can do something about the inactivity. No matter what the age, use it or lose it applies. Aging is not relative to years! Don’t allow yourself to believe that getting weaker and creakier is a must with the golden years. Weak, flabby, and frail is not reserved for grandma and grandpa! Muscle weakness, bone loss, and aches and pains are a result of using our muscles less, regardless of retirement status or senior discounts!

Strength training can slow and quite possibly reverse the symptoms of inactivity and “aging”. Strength training by definition is a short overload session. It doesn’t have to long, drawn out, and/or complicated. All you need is to briefly challenge your muscles a little bit more than normal. As little as 10-15 minutes per day with a few simple exercises and you can increase strength and muscle tone. Regular healthy stress from strength training not only increases muscle strength. The tendons, ligaments, and bones are also strengthened as a result of a strength training regimen.

Your strength training program is not all about bigger and stronger muscles. Don’t worry about getting big! Your new exercises will also train your “neuromuscular” system. This means that your dramatic strength improvements are from increases in balance, posture, coordination, and proprioception, not bigger muscles. Your body will be not only become stronger but, I believe more importantly, you become more stable and less injury prone due to trips and falls. All my seniors have become more sure footed and actually lighter on their feet! You will be given specific "ANTI-TRIP" and "ANTI-FALL" exercises.
A proper strength training program for seniors will include exercises that improve quality of life. As your strength training becomes the most challenging part of your day, the everyday tasks will get easier. Playing with your grandchildren, shopping at Costco, going up stairs, getting up from a low toilet; everything that makes you pause to think about your age could go away.

The dangers and health concerns of inactivity (“aging”) are also addressed with your strength training program. Shed those unhealthy inches that have been creeping on decade after decade. Improved glucose metabolism from strength training can significantly help manage diabetes and actually help prevent Type II (adult onset). The regular healthy stresses can help alleviate arthritis and back pain by lubing and nourishing joint cartilage and strengthening surrounding musculature, distributing the joint loads. Last but not least, strength training not only slows bone mineral loss, it can actually build bone, even in seniors! Hallelujah!