Maintaining your muscle mass and overall strength is really important when it comes to functioning well in your older years. Keeping up the strength and ability to balance, for example, is crucial in reducing risk of injuries and helping you live independently later on.
You might not want to think about it just yet, but each year, around 30 percent of people aged 60 and over will have a fall, which can result in serious injury. In total, falls account for more than 4 million hospital bed days every year.
The sooner you get in a healthy habit of regular exercise, the easier it will be to maintain those beneficial routines and patterns!
Everyone Loses Muscle
The bad news is that keeping your strength levels will need a bit of work. This is because each decade from the age of 30, we lose somewhere between 3 to 5 percent of the muscle mass we naturally carry. The loss of muscle causes us to lose muscle function – a condition called sarcopenia.
This natural loss of muscle affects even the most fit and active of individuals. It doesn’t mean, however, that you should simply accept the strength and muscle loss that come with age.
Recent studies have shown that not only can you slow down strength and muscle loss as you age, you can even build new muscle – and gain strength – well into your later years. So while you might lose some, you can also gain some!
The important thing is to stay active. Studies show that adults who are sedentary beyond age 50 can expect muscle loss of up to 0.4 pounds (200g) a year – more than those who stay active.
Join The Resistance
While any physical activity – from walking and swimming to playing sports – is good for you, there is one particular type of activity which is designed to build muscle and increase strength levels: resistance training (also referred to as weight training or strength training). It includes any form of exercise or activity in which you lift or pull against resistance. This could be using weights, your own bodyweight, gym machines, powerbands or any other external resistance.
Resistance training has a number of benefits. It builds muscle strength, improves mobility and helps maintain bone density – reducing the risk of fractures.
Swimming is a great non-impact, non-weight bearing form of exercise and really is perfect for people of all ages and abilities. Swimming gives you a great CV work out, which means it gets your lungs going and your heart beating that little bit faster and the water acts as natural resistance so is a great way to work the muscles too!
The best way to get some safe resistance training is visiting a gym and speaking to an instructor or personal trainer. Pretty much all gyms have well-stacked free weights areas and a host of machines and equipment designed specifically to build muscle.
Machines are a great option for working on strength because they do all the stability work for you. This allows you to concentrate your workouts on the muscle areas you want in a safe way. It is, however, possible to do a number of strength training exercises at home with very little investment. Inexpensive hand weights and resistance bands, for example, are very useful.
Exercises you can do in any space, using your own body weight, include squats, standing up out of a chair, modified push-ups, lying hip bridges.
Here’s an easy resistance training exercise – the forearm plank – you can try at home to begin with, which doesn’t require any equipment.
First assume a push-up position, but with your weight on your forearms instead of your hands. Your elbows should be directly beneath your shoulders. Squeeze your glutes and make your body as stiff as you can, locking it into a straight line from head to heels. Then hold the pose for 20 seconds. As you get more comfortable with the move, you can begin to hold the pose for as long as possible, without compromising the form.
Before starting any new exercise plan we always advise to seek the advice of your GP or medical professional to ensure there are no reasons why you can’t exercise.
These are just a few simple exercises you can do at home but why not come along to your local 1Life centre and speak to one of our trained and qualified personal trainers? They are experts in this field and will give you some great personalised advice and if you are interested they can create a bespoke plan you can do in and out of the gym to help you keep your physical strength as you get older. Our PTs work with people of all ages and abilities, day in and day out.