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Fitness for Older Adults: part three - Muscles

August 12, 2019

Over the last few weeks we have been looking at the difference between healthy years and lifespan and the effects of ageing on specific areas of the body. Today, we are going to study the muscles a little more closely with a view to encouraging more people to try resistance exercise.

 

Here are the facts:

 

Peak muscle mass is achieved by around age 30, after which there is a progressive loss in skeletal muscle. In fact, between the ages of 30-80, we lose around 30% of our muscle mass due to the loss of muscle fibres within our tissues. It varies between muscle groups and individuals as some muscle groups are used more actively for daily activities compared to others. In addition, people lead different types of lifestyles which can alter the muscle mass their bodies hold.

 

Strength and power decline at rate of 1.5% and 3.5% respectively per year as people get older. This shows the significant influence that ageing and inactivity can have on an individual’s energy levels throughout their older years. Active lifestyles can help to maintain more muscle mass; however, healthy older people will still experience huge losses in muscle and bone mass as they age.

 

So overall these changes can results in reductions in:

• Power

• Strength

• Endurance

• Fine control

• Heat production

• Immune function as the immune system is fed by muscle protein

 

In addition, the loss of elasticity in ligaments and tendons decreases muscular endurance due to a decrease in water content and an increase in calcification. Furthermore, injuries start to take longer to repair and the damaged muscle can be replaced with connective tissue all of which contribute to the reduction in range of movement and flexibility of the individual.

 

It makes for dismal reading but fear not. We already know that regular exercise promotes lean muscle mass and there are now more studies that suggest there are gains for strength training, both physiologically and psychologically for the older adult.

 

In fact, studies have reported numerous gains with strength training such as:

• a 30% increase in muscle tissue in 60-70 year olds performing 12 weeks of heavy resistance training,

• a decrease in body fat in 60 year old women over 24 weeks of heavy resistance training and

• a 180% increase in muscle strength in frail, elderly adults (80yrs+) over 8 weeks of heavy resistance training.

 

In addition, as lean muscle is strongly associated with increased bone mineral density, by regularly placing a demand on the muscle and bone we can decrease the risk of osteoporosis and the fear of falls. This is because every time your muscles contract, it places a stimulus on your bones, feeding and helping cell turnover which maintains good bone health.

 

This means that we need our clients to be lifting weights or using specific bone loading exercises to maximise resistance work during sessions. If you'd like to know how this should feel then get in touch and we'll work out a program together.

 

And did I mention that it'll make you look healthier, slimmer and fitter as well? Well, that's just a bonus! 

 

Do you lift weights? Tell us your regime at our Making Change Stick Facebook group

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