By Hawkins WilliamsCertified Fitness Specialist for Older Adults
Most of us would like to retire from years of working so that we can enjoy
the rest of our lives. You look forward to playing with your grandchildren
and doing all the things you could not do while you worked all those
years. I wonder, will you still have your health? Will you be able to get
around to have some fun and play with those grandchildren?
Here are some things that you should know. The tissue that allows you to
move is muscle. There is evidence that the rate of muscle loss doubles
one pound per year in people over the age of fifty. The loss of muscle
reduces functional capacity and lowers your ability to burn calories from
fat stores. Let me give you one example of what I mean by functional.
Picking up a heavy bag of groceries takes muscle fibers called Type II.
These muscle fibers allow you to produce internal force to overcome an
external force or any heavy object. Unfortunately if you are not using
these muscle fibers, you will lose them and that could cause all kinds of
problems. Simple tasks become difficult like picking up a small child or
mowing the lawn. Muscle loss may lead to poor posture which in turn can
lead to back problems. The more muscle you lose the slower your
metabolism becomes. Allow me to give you an example of this. If you are
eating 2000 calories on a daily basis and you lose muscle as you get
older, this will lead to higher levels of body fat.
Higher levels of body fat have been associated with diabetes in
conjunction with high fat/high sugar diets and a lack of physical activity. I will list the benefits of strength training for older adults later in this article.
Older adults have begun to strength train starting in their sixties and are
getting very good results. You hear that aerobic exercise should be
performed three days a week to help burn fat, and there is some truth to
that. However, if you were to put on three pounds of lean weight (muscle),
you can increase your resting metabolic rate by 7%; now that is
something to talk about. The only place to effectively burn fat is in the
muscle. So having more muscle is the key to losing body fat. As stated
earlier, staying functional is the greatest reason you should strength train.
There has been numerous research on the benefits of strength training for
older adults and the findings are great.
I will list and briefly comment on each positive effect of strength training.
Ralph Paffenbarger, Ph.D. and author Eric Olsen found that adding ten
pounds of lean mass through strength training increases the daily resting
energy requirements by about 500 calories. Studies by Campbell and
Gillette also found that by increasing your lean mass, the energy cost was
higher. They attributed this to the energy required to perform strength
exercises. Now for the really good news. The subjects they used in their
research had to eat 15% more calories per day in the last two weeks of
the study then the first two weeks. This may be due to the fact that muscle
is very active tissue requiring more energy at rest. What this means is in
order to keep the lean mass you gained you may have to eat more
food. That is what I call a win -win situation. You will also find that you
have more energy, increased functional activity and have more fun. It has
been reported by some strength trainers that their levels of self-confidence
improved. This was ascertained by Wayne Westcott Ph.D. in 1995 after
eight weeks of strength and endurance training.
I quote, "a 12 year study at the University of Florida Medical School
indicates that systematic strengthening of the low back (trunk extension)
significantly reduces or eliminates pain in the majority of patients (Risch et
al. 1993)". By targeting the low back muscles you can prevent excessive
stress on the spinal area. If you strengthen the muscle in the back you
must also strengthen the muscle in the front. You always want balance in
any exercise program.
Let's look at the effect of strength training for those with arthritis.
Researchers at Tuft University concluded that strength training exercises
ease the pain of osteoarthritis. I personally was diagnosed with
osteoarthritis in both of my hips. I began to focus more on my strength
training, and the result was that I had noticeably less pain.
Osteoporosis is a degenerative disease of the skeletal system. It is a
gradual loss of bone proteins and minerals. Research with older men and
postmenopausal women indicate that bone loss can be changed to bone
gain through regular and progressive strength training. These findings are
reported by (Menkes et al. 1993) and (Nelson et al. 1994).
Another benefit of strength training is enhanced glucose utilization which
may reduce Type II diabetes, which may be the leading cause of
amputations. With the high rate of Type II diabetes in the United States, it
seems that children should strength train as well; more about that at
Your resting blood pressure can also be affected positively by strength
training. Quoting once again, a "meta-analysis of nine studies on blood
nressure resoonse to weiaht trainina revealed averaae reduction of about
3% for resting systolic blood pressure and about 4% for resting diastolic
blood pressure (Kelly 1997)". Another study by Westcott, Dolan and
Cavicchi in 1996 showed a significant reduction in systolic blood pressure
after being involved in an eight-week circuit weight-training program.
Circuit strength training is a program where you perform strength
exercises starting with the large muscles of the body ( legs and hips) and
finishing with the smaller muscles (arms), moving quickly from one
exercise to the next.
I wanted to see if I would find the same results in one of my clients with this
program. After about six weeks I noticed a lower resting blood pressure
in both systolic and diastolic readings.
In the study on blood lipid levels by Hurely in 1988, cholesterol levels
were taken from 40 to 55 -year-old men. After 16 weeks of circuit weight
training, decreases in LDL and an increase in HDL levels were found.
However, further studies on the effects of blood lipid levels still need to be
researched before any conclusions can be made about the effects of
strength training on blood lipid profiles.
As reported in the sixth edition of the American College of Sports
Medicine Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, page 159,
most experts recommend 8 to 12 repetitions for healthy participants under
50 to 60 years of age, and 10 to 15 repetitions for individuals older than
50 to 60 years of age.
As you can see, there are numerous reasons why you should begin a
strength-training program. You will see that your quality of life will improve
with more energy and better sleep habits. As always, before starting any
exercise program, please consult with your primary health care provider. I
believe that you will benefit greatly if you were to start a strength-training
program. If you wish to start a program, just contact Hawkins Williams
(Personal Training Solutions My number is 309-530-0479. You may get a
recording, so please leave a message, and we will return your call as
soon as possible. We look forward to hearing from you, and hope that
you will decide to begin a strength-training program. I hope that this
information has caused you to think more about your quality of life. Bye