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Benefits of Strength Training for Seniors

Senior Nutrition & Wellness: Benefits of Strength Training for Seniors

Strength training is very important for all populations and especially for seniors. Getting older can make a lot of chores and daily tasks a lot more difficult due to a common decrease in strength. There are many ways that you can fight this decrease in strength, maintain as much independence as possible, and live a much more fulfilling life. Staying strong makes everything easier. Walking up the stairs, taking the trash out, buying groceries, fixing things around the house, helping friends move, cleaning up your house, and so on and so on. This is directly affected by how strong and physically capable you are.

The risk of falling and getting hurt is something to be very aware of as you get older. One of the biggest predictors of whether you’re going to fall or not is leg strength. If your legs are not strong you will not be fast enough to catch yourself in the fall or have a slower recovery if a fall occurs. A strong set of legs will dramatically improve your walking, jogging, and overall functional ability throughout your day. There are tons of benefits to strength training and it applies just as much to older people as it does to younger people.

It is a myth that older people can’t respond to exercise the same way as young people can. It has been shown that older people adapt just as well to strength training as younger individuals.

In a strength training study, the researchers compared a group of 30-year-olds to a group of 60-year-olds to see how they responded to the exercise program. What they saw was that there was a clear hormonal difference in how they responded to their exercise, however, the effects of strength training on muscle mass and strength was very similar in both groups. Most people would assume that the 30th-year-old with higher levels of testosterone and IGF-I would have a significantly better response to resistance training. Despite the lower anabolic hormones, the older participants were still able to see great strength results. This is positive news for older individuals. It shows you that there is no better time than today to start exercising and lifting weights even if you have never done it before or if you are older than most of the gym goers.

In another study looking at strength training for 90-year-olds, the participants were able to build muscle and increase maximal strength. The 90-year-olds increased their strength by 31%, increased their muscle mass by about 10%, and their walking speed improved by 48%. After strength training, they were able to walk faster and more confidently which is going to carry over to your everyday life and not just lifting. Their functional mobility also increased from the lifting routine which is another added benefit.

Senior Nutrition & Wellness: Benefits of Strength Training for SeniorsSo lifting is obviously great for strength and overall independence. In previous articles, I’ve covered the need for extra protein in regards to muscle mass and aging well. In a big study done on older individuals, they examined how food affected their muscle decline as they got older. In addition to the protein for maintaining muscle mass antioxidants also correlated strongly with better aging. The researchers conclude that eating fruits, vegetables, pulses, fish, shellfish, and drinking green tea & coffee instead of confectionery and soft drinks may have a positive effect on preventing frailty.

Along with the added protein and antioxidants adding some fish oil can be very beneficial as well. In a study done on 65 to 80-year-old men a daily supplementation of 3g of fish-oil helped them get an increased response from resistance exercise. They were able to build more mitochondria (powerhouse of your cells) and their protein synthesis (buildup of muscle) was also much higher compared to the group that did not get the omega-3 fatty acid supplement.

Here’s what to do to stay young as long as possible:

  • Lift weights

  • Eat protein at each meal

  • Get antioxidants from vegetables, fruits, pulses, coffee, and green tea

  • Eat seafood regularly or supplement with a high-quality fish Oil

 

Sources:

Fish-oil and aging

 

Antioxidants and muscle

 

Young Vs. Old resistance training

 

90-year-olds getting stronger

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Oscar Isacsson, M.S., CSCS

Oscar Isacsson, M.S., CSCS

Director of Training and Head Coach at CrossFit TNT
M.S Human Performance from Lindenwood University

B.S. Exercise Science from Lindenwood University

Started CrossFit in 2010.

Favorite thing about what I do:

To help and see people improve their fitness and confidence

Credentials:

Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist by the National Strength and Conditioning Association

CF L1 Coach

CF L2 Coach

CF Endurance

CF Weightlifting

CF Mobility

CF Gymnastics

USAW Sports Performance Coach & club coach

CPR Certified
Oscar Isacsson, M.S., CSCS

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