Older Adult Strength

Older adults are at risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures. Three high risk areas include your lower spine, hips, and wrists. Years ago if you acquired osteoporosis and were not feeling well, a physician might prescribe rest. Now doctors dictate exercise.

Do not attempt to follow your grandchildren jumping off monkey bars and out of swings. You may have difficulty with eccentric contractions (jumping down and landing) and forceful movements. Instead, strength training with sticks,SportBlocks, SportCords, or weight machines is beneficial. Lifting weights strengthens your bones. Your muscles pull on tendons that pull your bones. Improvements in your bone density is mediated by proper nutrition and hormone levels.

As you mature, you lose Type II B Fast Twitch muscle fibers. Your muscles tend to get weaker and smaller. Strength training reduces their rate of decline.

You can enhance your strength using a resistance program. The first phase of your improvement is due to neurological efficiency. You learn to recruit more muscle fibers. Sending signals from your brain to your muscles keeps your muscles activated.

The second phase of your development stems from strengthened connective tissue. Tendons and ligaments become more powerful. Young athletes enjoy a third phase of advancement. Their testosterone kicks in. You probably will not experience testosterone elevation. Your strength will improve with little muscle enlargement.

Strength training is extremely beneficial for your age group. One study showed that not only did lifting weights increase strength by 50 percent, but subjects walking time improved by a significant factor. Strengthening muscles increased walking speed, regardless of aerobic condition.

Another study investigated the relationship between older adults and reaction time/movement time. Reaction time was designated by the amount of seconds it took for older adults to begin to respond to a stimulus. Movement time was the number of seconds from the initiation of effort until completion of the action. Subjects were instructed to walk normally through a pathway. When a light randomly blinked, subjects were required to stop and turn in one direction or the other. Results demonstrated that older adults had normal reaction time. Their movement time was compromised compared to their younger counterparts, however.

Roberta Rikli, Ph.D., professor of kinesiology, reported in the March 1994 issue of Research Quarterly that strong muscles reacted quicker than flabby ones. Forty-four women hit a foot pad when a signal was given. Those with the strongest leg muscles reacted the fastest. Toned muscles have more nerve fibers and blood vessels to help the impulse get from thought to action.

Weight training improves your balance. The heavier the weight, the better. But begin light. Gradually add weight. Be sure you can perform ten repetitions with perfect form before advancing to a heavier weight. Do not increase your resistance more than five percent in a single workout. If you do not have adjustable, light, weights, perform more repetitions at your previous intensity. Most gyms have 10 pound weight increments. After you can perform 18 repetitions, increase the weight ten pounds.

Extend a SportBlock to the front of your body. Muscles in your back must counterbalance. Raise a weight from your side. Muscles on your other side brace your effort. Whenever you lift free weights, muscles throughout your body must stabilize your motion.

Consider older adults unfamiliar with weight training. They grasp five pound sets of SportBlocks and lift them to waist level. Their blood pressures rise, at first. If these individuals continue to strength train, their bodies gradually adapt and grow stronger. The stronger they become, the less their blood pressure increases upon physical demand.

Soon, hoisting five pound SportBlocks affects their blood pressure as if they were plucking a blade of grass.

Weight training tips for the older adult:

1. The first eight weeks should employ minimum resistance to allow for your connective tissue to strengthen.

2. Emphasize proper technique and maintain your normal breathing.

3. Perform all of your exercises in a controlled manner. Never let the amount of weight dictate your form.

4. Your exercises should be performed in a range of motion that is pain free.

5. Perform multi-joint exercises (closed chain) as opposed to single joint exercises.

6. Your strength training should be performed regularly, not hit or miss.