What first springs to mind when contemplating how to stay able, agile and healthy as we grow older? More often than not, we initially focus on maintaining our fitness levels by ensuring we perform sufficient aerobic exercise to keep ourselves active and limber. While cardio sessions certainly play an important role in prolonging our youthful agility, it’s often underestimated just how vital weight training is in order to prevent frailty and brittle bones as we start to age.
Lifting weights in the gym is something that’s more frequently associated with the younger generation; often with the aim of attaining a certain body ideal. However, according to new evidence provided by Public Health England, it has in fact been proven that ageing adults should begin to prioritise strength based and balancing exercises. While starting sooner rather than later is always recommended, don’t feel restricted by your age: even if you’re 65 or above, strength training can still help you to make drastic improvements. By resistance training at least twice a week you’ll make essential and consistent muscle gains to better protect your body against increasing fragility in old age.
We’re not advising that you neglect aerobic exercises such as dancing, speed walking, tennis and swimming; these are all still vital but should be used in combination with resistance training, not as replacements.
In ageing adults, insufficient muscle strength can increase the risk of taking a tumble by over 70%, and those who have fallen before are almost three times more likely to fall again. What’s more, injuries among the older population are likely to be far more severe, especially with regards to broken bones, which will also take longer to heal. Furthermore, approximately 30.8 million sick days are taken every year in the UK by employees due to musculoskeletal issues. This, combined with a growing population and the fact that on average, we’re all living longer, means the government, health care services and employers are set to be facing a precarious future.
While these statistics can seem quite frightening, we must each take responsibility for our own physical, as well as mental health by understanding the risks and taking important precautions. So get clued up on the all facts in order to positively impact your own future.
Increased strength can have various advantages for your well-being, regardless of your age. The benefits go far beyond just physical power and stability: being strong can boost your mood, your confidence and your overall mental health; improve your sleeping patterns and balance; increase your energy levels and reduce the risk of early death or injury. The positives are endless!
Getting started is always the hardest part...but remember that it’s never too late, or too early, to start looking after your body, especially your muscles and bones: they are the fundamentals of your body’s support structure and everything quite literally depends on them.
We suggest a full body resistance workout in the gym at least twice a week. This should ideally be tailored to your body’s strengths, weaknesses and biomechanics. (Check out our March article on the benefits of Personal Trainer assessments about how to get a unique and expert insight into what exercises work for your body!)
We highly recommend the above mentioned assessment to refresh and revive your outlook on strength training by specifically tailoring exercises to your body type. However, here are some general key movements which we use in everyday life such as pushing, pulling, squatting and twisting for anyone to perform to boost their strength.
A few ideas include: cable rows, goblet squats, dumbbell presses and step ups. The best thing is that these exercises are so simple that if the gym isn’t for you - no problem: get yourself a resistance band, some weights and then a wooden block or high step in your back garden will work perfectly for step ups! Instead of pushing yourself to do fast-paced intense cardio sessions, instead try to remain controlled and structured with correct work to rest ratio periods.
Getting older doesn’t have to mean accepting the fact that you’re going to get weaker and less nimble; ageing doesn’t have to be such a great burden on your body. By preparing consistently and effectively for the next stage in your life by building strength and adhering to healthy, balanced diet - you’re set to be skipping into your nineties!
As a great follow-up to this post, if you haven’t already, check out our June blog post on maximising your muscles for some great strength boosting tips.