First, the bad news: as we age, our muscle mass decreases.
Starting in our thirties and continuing into our eighties we lose up to 15% of our lean muscle mass. Strong muscles improve balance and decrease the risk of falls. Strong muscles can also reduce aches and pains and increase an overall sense of well-being. Plus, strength training can help to reduce the common symptoms of arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, back pain, and depression.
As we and our loved ones age, we don’t need to become competitive weightlifters but the stronger our muscles become the better our health will be.
The good news? Our bodies are responsive to strength training at any age.
If you need more motivation to hit the gym—and bring your aging loved one with you—here are four reasons to get and stay strong:
1. Being strong helps reduce the risk of falling.
Each year, more than 1.6 million older U.S. adults go to emergency departments for fall-related injuries. They are a leading cause of injury and even death. Lifting weights just two or three times a week can increase strength by building lean muscle. Studies have shown that even this small amount of strength training can increase bone density, overall strength, and balance. The fewer falls your loved one experiences the healthier they will be.
2. Strong muscles help with balance.
Improving balance can decrease the risk of fallsand increase mobility. Better balance means better walking and that makes exercise easier. Improved balance will also reduce the risk of accidents at home. When a senior has better balance they are more able to carry out the activities of daily living independently.
3. Weight training strengthens our bones.
As we age, bone density decreases. That can lead to osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones become fragile, weak, and are more prone to fractures. More than 40 million Americans have, or are at risk for, osteoporosis. It is more common in women than in men. However, exercise can increase bone strength and density. Weight-bearing activity is particularly useful in fighting osteoporosis because it causes the bones to work harder and strengthens the muscles around them.
4. Staying active keeps joints healthy.
Osteoarthritis is a condition in which the cartilage between the joints breaks down with age. It causes stiffness, pain, and loss of movement in the joints. Strength training is effective in fighting osteoarthritis and improving the joints, especially when exercises improve range of motion, flexibility, and endurance. Staying active and maintaining a healthy weight are two of the most effective ways to manage osteoarthritis.
Bonus benefit: Exercise also improves overall mood and cognitive function for people of all ages.
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