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Older is Better: Strength Training for the Aging

Aging adults often attribute their aches, pains, and illnesses to “getting too old”.  Age can be used altogether too much as a crutch to avoid exercise and activity. When it comes to health in general, the aging individual has so much upside to focusing on wellness in their lifestyle. A regular exercise program can improve quality of life, help avoid illness, including heart disease , stroke, and diabetes. In essence, “getting too old” can be gold and strength training can be a catalyst to a new you. Admittedly, aging comes with physiological changes, but these changes can be slowed and even reversed with proper exercise. Studies show that we generally will weaken in the following ways as we age:

• Lean muscle tissue – We hit our peak at around age 25-30 and begin losing it thereafter

• Aerobic capacity – This is the hearts ability to deliver oxygen efficiently throughout the body. Changes in heart and muscle tissue decrease this capacity.

• Balance – The loss of muscle strength is a major contributor to loss of balance.

• Flexibility – The joints and tendons lose some of their elasticity with age, making it difficult to move freely.

• Bone density – Peak density is around age 20. After that, bones being to gradually get thinner and weaker, creating conditions such as osteoporosis.

There is great news regarding aging health though. Several health benefits can be derived from regular exercise and strength training, with benefits ranging from improved heart and cardiovascular health to overall improved quality of life and mental alertness. Four leading risk factors for death are high blood pressure, high blood glucose, physical inactivity, and obesity, and all of these risk factors can be minimized with proper physical activity. Strength training also slows these “effects of aging,” which improves quality of life as a result. Strength training is also not simply about getting stronger: recent research has shown it can significantly reduce signs and symptoms associated with chronic age- related health issues, such as sarcopenia, arthritis, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, heart disease, and diabetes.

An additional key benefit to strength training is improved balance, which reduces the risk of falls in the aging population. The CDC reports that nearly 40% of adults 65 and older fall at least once each year, and falls are the leading cause of injury death. A fall prevention physical therapy program is an excellent way to regain your balance, increase strength and improve fexibility. Reducing risk factors for falling and improving health are essential components to every physical therapy and strength training program for older adults.

Setting the record straight, it is not aging alone that causes people to lose muscle. One of the main reasons for loss is stopping exercising and doing every day activity that builds muscle. Stronger muscles help protect joints, strengthen bones, improve balance, and reduce the risk of falls, and improves overall daily function in general. Many of the issues people face when returning to activity can be safely monitored in a controlled environment with a trained physical therapist. Specifc and individualized plans are created for each individual to address the primary issues and safe return to their desired activity, as well as becoming a springboard toward an independent exercise program to maintain and further progress their health gains.

There are key indicators of the aging process such as; arthritis, poor balance/endurance, history of falls, pain with activity or generalized weakness. At Wright Physical Therapy we are trained to create individualized programs to meet the needs of the aging population to safely return to higher quality of life through exercise and strength training. Remember, it is never to late to start exercising and to become a better you! Call us at one of our convenient clinic locations get to get to the root of your pain.