As people age their bodies’ physical abilities slowly begin to decline, this is a natural part of the aging process but that doesn’t make it any less difficult to deal with. Taking care of your body throughout your life can help you combat some of the symptoms of aging, exercise isn’t just for the young and spry! Exercising as you get into your older years has had many proven benefits. Having a balanced fitness regime that includes all four types of exercise such as flexibility, strength, balance, and endurance can be highly beneficial for seniors.
What is resistance training?
Most seniors that are considered active take regular walks, go play golf, or swim a few times a week. They may also try to get some stretching in every now and then. This is awesome but there is a better and more effective way to stay in shape! What I believe is the most neglected form of exercise in a balanced workout routine for seniors, is resistance training, also known as strength training. Resistance training is the form of using progressive overload through bodyweight exercises, bands, or weights to break down your muscles in order to rebuild them stronger than before! Resistance training can also help lower a senior’s risk of falling by strengthening bones, muscles, and improving balance! With seniors being stronger and feeling less at risk of falling this also leads to a feeling of independence which can help with a senior’s mental health!
Resistance training can slow cognitive decline!
On top of all of the physical benefits that resistance training produces there have also been studies done recently that suggest that resistance training may slow cognitive decline. “ ‘Building muscle mass should be part of everyone’s plan to reduce the risk of cognitive decline,’ says Richard Isaacson, MD, FAAN, director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at the Weill Cornell Memory Disorders Program in New York City.” Isaacson further explained that every year that seniors age they lose about one percent of their muscle mass, low muscle mass, and extra body fat can cause metabolic problems linked to cognitive decline. “As belly size gets bigger, the hippocampus (the part of the brain that controls learning and memory) gets smaller, and our cognitive decline suffers,” says Isaacson quoting a study from Neurology. Isaacson states that developing a healthy lifestyle of varied forms of exercise alongside a nutritious diet may improve cognitive decline and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and Dementia. He later goes on to suggest that much more research is needed to be done before they can concretely claim a connection between Alzheimer’s and exercise. Even though there is still a lot of research that needs to be done on this topic I think that we can all agree that creating a balanced exercise program for seniors is highly beneficial both physically and mentally. So, what are you waiting for?
Just in case you're not convinced yet...
So, I know I may have already won you over, but just in case, I have a few more perks of resistance training for seniors to mention! There have been studies done that show that resistance training can boost your mood, lower your risk of type two diabetes, prevent heart disease, and improve symptoms of chronic kidney disease. WOW!
An analysis done by Harvard of 33 different studies which analyzed if resistance training really protected against depression and anxiety found that people who had mild symptoms of these disorders who performed resistance training at least twice a week saw a significant decrease in their symptoms, compared to those who did not. Resistance training will also increase muscle mass in the body which will increase insulin sensitivity! This means that your body stores excess carbs in your muscles instead of as fat or in your bloodstream, which raises your blood glucose levels, which can eventually lead to type two diabetes! A study done at the American College of Cardiology suggested that resistance training could actually be more effective at preventing heart disease than aerobic exercise!
Where do I start?
A lot of symptoms of aging have been ingrained in our heads as simply how you have to age. You get old, you get fragile, and your brain starts to forget things. Now, as some of this is true and some conditions do not give seniors any control over these things. There are also ways to take care of your body with a balanced exercise routine and proper nutrition that can help keep you happy and independent for longer. So, where do you even start? Well, speaking to your doctor and a professional trainer about the best ways for you to implement a fitness routine into your life is a great place to start! You never want to start something without getting the knowledge of professionals first to help you get the best results and to protect yourself from potential injury! Another helpful resource is this FREE PDF from the National Institute on Aging which provides you with a comprehensive guide to exercise and physical activity as a senior. This guide provides you with nutrition information, tips, and sample exercises that can be done at home! The evidence of the benefits of incorporating resistance training into your routine is overwhelming. Hiring a Caregiver through Dwell at Home is a great way to have someone around to encourage and workout with your senior! Now get out and safely moving!
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