Training For Older Adults

People strength train or “workout” for many different reasons, whether it’s to lose a few pounds and look good naked, build confidence in yourself and run that Spartan Race or simply just to build some sweet abs and a set of incredible biceps.  All of these are fine reasons to train but keep in mind if you are training regularly, and hopefully optimally, it should also:

– Make you more athletic

– Help you protect yourself from danger via fight or flight

– Benefit others by your ability to help them physically move a box, carry a dog or literally lend them a hand.

– Reduce risk of injury in your daily life

According to the CDC website, 1 in 4 adults ages 65 and over fall each year.  2.8 million of those are treated in emergency rooms and over 800,000 are hospitalized.

Some of these falls are preventable while others can be less serious if these older adults strength train.  Here are a few reasons why.

Balance: Often the first thing that comes to mind in older adults is balance.  It can deteriorate as we age but training gives us an opportunity to combat this.  Not only can you practice the stability of balance through exercises like split squats, lunges in different directions, single leg deadlifts and step ups which are all tried and true, but also through maintaining mobility.  Think about it.  As a person’s hips and thoracic spine lose the ability to move and rotate optimally their stride will shorten and their posture becomes more slouched.  Eventually this throws the body off balance as it’s slightly pitched forward and each short stride is catching the body as it falls forward.  Training mobility via the exercises listed above as well as a myriad of others will help both posture and range of motion, ultimately resulting in better balance and coordination.

Ability to absorb force/Strength: Training is not only about building muscle and producing force but also absorbing it.  If you trip, stub your toe or stumble forward you’re body hopefully will catch itself before you hit the ground.  Having strong(er) legs capable of controlling the impact of the stumble is far more beneficial to your health than having weak and frail legs that are unprepared for this type of situation.  Generally speaking, the stronger one’s legs the better opportunity they have to control the impact and stay upright after tripping over a curb or side stepping the dog as it’s leash gets tangled in your feet

Muscle/Body armor: Finally there’s muscle mass. I’ve got to credit my client Ann as she really reminded me of this while we talked recently during a training session.  Consider that in several sports such as football, hockey and basketball it pays to have some muscle on your frame as these are physical sports.  Coach Dan John calls that muscle body armor.  Well, I think the same can be true for the older adult.  If those hips and shoulders have some more meat on the bone there is some more protection available as a last resort.  If you hit the ground, at least there’s some armor between you and the floor.

The bottom line is that everyone needs to strength train on some level to lead a longer and happier life.  You may or may not have a specific goal, but no matter what, train with a purpose.

  • Mike Baltren