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Health & Fitness: Training as an Older Adult

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By Kim Duke, NETA & AAFA Certified Trainer

I hate to admit it, but I have been in the fitness industry for 34 years.  Granted, I started out as a teenager teaching aerobics back in the 80’s when certifications were not so important and you made your own music mix by taping music off the radio.

A lot has changed since then.  Music can be pre-ordered and downloaded, certifications are a must and can be achieved in a variety of ways, and, in 34 years, my body has given birth, broken a couple bones here and there and needs extra time to warm up before I get into an exercise routine.  I HAVE AGED…

So, as an older adult, I look at strength training as an obligation to keep my body strong and injury resistant.

Dr. Deborah L Mullen, a researcher at Tufts University Exercise Lab, says  “that strength training is a potent age eraser. It is their weapon of choice for fighting physical declines associated with aging.  More and more fitness experts are recommending strength training for health reasons–for women as well as men, older adults as well as younger adults. Strength training is extremely important in combating the age-related declines in muscle mass, bone density and metabolism. It is an effective way to increase muscle strength and to shed unwanted inches. Strength training also helps to decrease back pain, reduce arthritic discomfort, and help prevent or manage some diabetic symptoms.”

At Tufts University, researchers also found that strength training can add bone density. Prior to this research, it was thought that women might be able to slow their bone loss, but not increase their bone density. This new study shows that strength training at any age can actually add bone, not just slow its loss.

Strength training, when done properly, can make you feel like a strong machine.  However, if there are exercises that are done incorrectly or are too difficult for your joints or back, injury can result and sideline you from your healthy experience.

According to Dr. Mullen, “sensible strength training may be one of the best ways to get relief from your arthritis. Not only will it help to lubricate and nourish the joint, strength training will also strengthen the muscles around the joint, providing it with greater support.”

Strength training is critical for combatting frailty and disability, for increasing strength and mobility, and for staying active and self-sufficient. Research has consistently shown the fitness and health benefits of strength training for older adults.

You don’t have to decline with age! You can control these declines or even reverse them with strength training—it will have a great impact on the quality of your life as you grow older.

If you want to stay fit, trim, strong, mobile, and physically independent as you age, then you should be strength training for 30 minutes, twice a week. There isn’t another investment that pays off as well.   

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