Often as we age we look back fondly at our younger days, where we could do any task, lift anything we needed to, or do any activity without even thinking twice about it. As we get older we start to find that things take that little bit longer to recover, starting new activities are hard and often lead to injury, little niggles make movement uncomfortable, or time with work and family takes away from our ability to remain physically active. As a result we can end up in a vicious cycle where our health is often neglected.
At Empower we don’t define health as the absence of disease, pain or infirmity. Do you know anyone who is completely absent from disease, symptoms, pain or infirmity? By that standard, no one is healthy! These things are a part of life. We see a person as healthy when they have the ability to adapt to self manage in the face of physical, emotional and social challenges. This is where strength training can come in!
As unfortunate as it is, ageing causes changes to the body, and if nothing is done about it, the consequences can be inconvenient or even have serious implications.
We can view the ageing process and its mechanisms as your body ticking into resource saving mode – after all, one of the key characteristics of ageing is the reduction of the number of cells within the body. So it makes sense right? The body starts to save where it can, and is more picky with where it sends its precious cells.
For this reason we need to stimulate our bones, muscle, tendons and cartilage (just to name a few) to grow – If they are not in use, the body will not give them the resources as actively as it once did as it starts to consider more carefully where it puts its time and energy. The flow on effects of this, and perhaps your lived experience of getting older, include:
- Soreness, pain and arthritis becomes more common
- Bone density is reduced, with conditions such as osteoporosis and osteopenia becoming more common
- Recovery times increase
- Strength reduces
- Injury rates become higher and more likely
- Activity is often reduced due to the increased effort it now takes
- The risk of developing chronic diseases such as Diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol increases
This might seem daunting to read for some, and it certainly doesn’t seem to offer much hope as so many of us move into our older years.
The effects noted above with ageing are halted, slowed, and even reversed by use of strength training. What ageing does, strength training does the opposite, by stimulating growth, encouraging tissue resilience and robustness and increasing confidence and ability to partake in day to day tasks. Strength training is the stimulus the body needs to continue growing and developing, especially into older age.
This not only improves health outcomes, but it also improves our quality of life, our physical ability, and the ability to remain present and active socially and with our families. I’d argue this is the most important improvement we see, and the one that you will notice the most.
The specific benefits for strength training for older men are numerous, and include:
- Increased lean muscle mass and prevention of age related muscle loss
- Increased metabolic rate, leading to better body composition and reduced risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, and other metabolic conditions.
- Preserved/increased bone density to reduce the risk of osteoporosis
- Increased joint health and lower levels of pain and arthritis
- Increased balance & decreased risk of falls or injury
- Improved sleep
- Improved mental health & reduced depression
- Reduced risk and symptoms of some chronic diseases
- Improved cognitive function
- Potential to reduce risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease
- Improved quality of life
So where to start?
The aim for strength training is to get in two to three 30-60 minute strength training sessions per week. This is what is ideal for best results over time.
But let’s keep in mind that it is important to start slow and build this into your routine in a sustainable way. We are looking for a long term change here, rather than a quick fix. Think of the above guidelines as something you will see yourself doing 5+ years from now. Take your time getting there, and build up over a few weeks/months to help you get settled, and to allow your body to get used to what you are doing.
For advice on how to start with a healthy ageing program tailored to you and any conditions/injuries you may have, book in to see one of our friendly team members here at EmPower!