Senior Citizens Can Be Older and Stronger
with Progressive Resistance Training
Researchers at the University of Michigan say older
adults don’t have to accept strength and muscle loss as they age - watch
April 4, 2011 - Getting older
doesn’t mean giving up muscle strength. Not only can adults fight the
battle of strength and muscle loss that comes with age, but the Golden
Years can be a time to get stronger, say experts at the University of
Michigan Health System.
“Resistance exercise is a
great way to increase lean muscle tissue and strength capacity so that
people can function more readily in daily life,” says Mark Peterson,
Ph.D., a research fellow in the U-M Physical Activity and Exercise
Intervention Research Laboratory, at the
Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
Through resistance training
adults can improve their ability to stand up out of a chair walk across
the floor, climb a flight of stairs -- anything that requires
manipulating their own body mass through a full range of motions.
Normally, adults who are
sedentary beyond age 50 can expect muscle loss of up to 0.4 pounds a
“That only worsens as people
age. But even earlier in adulthood - the 30s, 40s and 50s - you can
begin to see declines if you do not engage in any strengthening
activities,” Peterson says.
“Our analyses of current
research show that the most important factor in somebody’s function is
their strength capacity. No matter what age an individual is, they can
experience significant strength improvement with progressive resistance
exercise even into the eighth and ninth decades of life,” he says.
training means that the amount of weight used, and the frequency and
duration of training sessions is altered over time to accommodate an
A review article by U-M
researchers, published in The American Journal of Medicine, shows that
after an average of 18-20 weeks of progressive resistance training, an
adult can add 2.42 pounds of lean muscle to their body mass and
increases their overall strength by 25-30 percent.
Recommendations for those
over age 50
Peterson says that anyone over
age 50 should strongly consider participating in resistance exercise.
A good way for people to start
on a resistance training program, especially for people who are
relatively sedentary – and after getting permission from their doctor to
do so - is to use their body mass as a load for various exercises.
Exercises you can do using
your own body weight include squats, standing up out of a chair,
modified push-ups, lying hip bridges, as well as non-traditional
exercises that progress through a full range of motion, such as Thai Chi
or Pilates and Yoga.
Transition to the gym
After getting accustomed to
these activities, older adults can move on to more advanced resistance
training in an exercise and fitness facility. A certified trainer or
fitness professional that has experience with special populations can
help with the transition.
Peterson says you should feel
comfortable asking a trainer whether they have experience working with
aging adults before you begin any fitness routine.
“Working out at age 20 is not
the same as at age 70. A fitness professional who understands those
differences is important for your safety. In addition, current
recommendations suggest that an older individual participate in
strengthening exercise two days per week,” Peterson says. “Based on the
results of our studies, I would suggest that be thought of as the
Don’t forget to progress
As resistance training
progresses and weights and machines are introduced, Peterson recommends
incorporating full body exercises and exercises that use more than one
joint and muscle group at a time, such as the leg press, chest press,
and rows. These are safer and more effective in building muscle mass.
“You should also keep in mind
the need for increased resistance and intensity of your training to
continue building muscle mass and strength,” he says.
A good fitness professional
can help plan an appropriate training regimen, and make adjustments
based on how you respond as you progress.
“We firmly believe based on
this research that progressive resistance training should be encouraged
among healthy older adults to help minimize the loss of muscle mass and
strength as they age,” Peterson says.