Getting stronger and generally fitter is well known to be good for your health and well being. However the positive effects this can have on how long you live and how well preserved you remain in your old age are only recently becoming better understood.

A US study published in 2016 concluded that  “Strength Training is significantly associated with decreased overall mortality”. So you don’t die as much if you keep strength training? Good news, but why are you less likely to die in old age if you strength train? Research into this is ongoing but there are a number of likely factors that have already been identified:

Age related decline in strength and muscle (sarcopenia)

At around 50+ your muscle mass starts to decline by 0.5-1% per year. This decline can lead to a whole host of problems in old age like mobility, frailty and eventually a loss of physical functions and independence (which can lead to the need to get extra help and care). Strength training has been shown to slow and help manage sarcopenia as you age.

Testosterone

Linked to sarcopenia, after 40 years old, male testosterone levels decline at around 1% a year. Strength training is hugely beneficial to levels of testosterone and thus muscle maintenance as you age. Testosterone has also been linked to better cognitive performance in older men. But it’s not just for men, testosterone declines similarly in women too, testosterone has shown to be important in aging women, higher levels of testosterone help to maintain a healthy body composition, energy levels and sense of well being into old age.

Bone mass

At around 40 years old (again), age can begin to sap bone mass at 1% a year. There is good evidence from studies to show that strength training can slow down bone loss and even make bones stronger and denser.

Balance and coordination

Seems obvious, but it is worth mentioning that strength training does improve your balance and your coordination. In old age this makes you less likely to fall which of course can be a serious health risk.

All the other good stuff…

To add to the above, all of the other health benefits of getting fitter are: a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression and dementia. Seems like a no-brainer, right?

Programming for strength training in old age

A 2017 article entitled “Resistance Exercise to Prevent and Manage Sarcopenia and Dynapenia” concludes:
“there are many components to an optimal resistance exercise prescription, exercise intensity, exercise volume and progression, are critical factors that deserve strong consideration”

Anyone who has personal training at RWF will already have a program that progresses in either volume or intensity. You have probably muttered a curse to Derran, Tim or Laura when they add a bit more weight or ask for another rep but the progression part is key to making the body respond to the exercise. It should be gradual and is usually best managed by consulting with your PT. But progress you must if you want the benefits that strength training can deliver.

Contact RWF for advice on training for old age and longevity, over half our clients are over 40. Whatever your level, from beginner to expert we can help with a program tailored to your specific needs.

About the Author

Taras Johnson is a long time RWF (over 40) client and a Director of Avanti Homecare who provide quality at home elderly care in Ilkeston and Erewash area. We know the importance of keeping you moving into old age. If you’re looking for personalised home care in Ilkeston, West Hallam, Cossall, Awsworth, Sandiacre, Stapleford, Long Eaton please get in touch for a chat.

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