The Hefty Benefits of Strength Training for Seniors
You’ve probably heard about the benefits of keeping your brain active by doing crossword puzzles, learning a new language or playing specially-designed “brain games.”
But physical exercise is also proving to be very beneficial to the health of the brain. Strength-training, in particular, can have a significant impact not just on memory but also on the quality and even the length of a senior’s life. Read on to find out the ways that strength training can enhance your life.
Improved Memory and Thinking
Scores of studies have made the connection between working up a sweat and improvements in cognitive capabilities. Recently, one study of middle-aged twins showed a strong relationship between leg power and the quality of memory and thinking abilities.
Scientists measured the leg muscle-power of 162 pairs of female twins. They also assessed their cognitive function. Ten years later, the twins’ cognitive functions were tested again. If one twin had stronger legs at the start of the study, she also performed better on the memory and cognitive tests.
According to the doctor who lead the study, it’s possible that active muscles release biochemicals that influence cellular health in the brain; the stronger the muscles, the more brain-boosting chemicals they generate.
It makes sense to have a plan in place in the event that you do fall, like having a medical alert system in your home. But strength training is a major step in fighting back against the loss of muscle that naturally occurs with age, and you don’t have to pump iron to keep your body strong.
Tai Chi was shown to reduce the risk of falling by an impressive 47.5 percent in seniors participating in a study at the Emory University School of Medicine. The martial arts form, known for its flowing movements, improves both strength and balance awareness. The study participants also felt more confident as a result of practicing Tai Chi and were less fearful of falling than they used to be.
Longer Life Expectancy
As if improved cognitive function isn’t enough reason to maintain healthy levels of muscle mass, weak muscles are also linked to higher mortality. A poor grip strength has repeatedly been shown to predict a higher likelihood of death within the next few years.
One possible reason for the increased mortality is that people with weaker muscles have a higher likelihood of experiencing a fall. Additionally, muscles are the body’s storage centers for amino acids. If a person without much muscle gets sick, they have few reserves of amino acids left to help with healing.
Muscle also consumes glucose. If you have less muscle in your body, you may not be able to cope as well with the spike of glucose you experience after eating. This can lead to the development of diabetes.
What about Cardio?
Aerobic exercise does have a place in a balanced health plan for seniors. Increasing your breathing and heart rate helps to improve your overall fitness so you can carry out your everyday tasks with ease.
Additionally, flexibility allows you to move more freely, and good balance is crucial to preventing falls. Some forms of exercise, such as yoga, produce results in all four areas of fitness: strength, endurance, balance and flexibility.
How Much Exercise Do You Need?
The National Institute of Health recommends setting a goal of doing strength exercises at least two times a week that work out all the major muscle groups.
The Major Muscle Groups
You should also try to get in 150 minutes a week of endurance activity, such as brisk walking or gardening. Balance and flexibility exercise can be done as frequently as you’d like.
Is it Safe for Me to Exercise?
Generally, it’s safe for just about everyone to exercise. People who have arthritis, heart disease and diabetes, for instance, can all benefit from regular exercise. If you want to make a significant change in your activity level, check with your doctor to make sure it’s safe before you get started.
It’s always wise to start small if you haven’t been exercising for a long time. Even just a few minutes a day in the beginning is an excellent way to start. Small changes in your strength level can make a big difference in your day to day life. You may notice it’s easier to get up from the couch, to pick up a child or open a jar. Scientists say that exercise is one of the best anti-aging pills. Get started to experience the results for yourself.