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Useful resistance training for older individuals.

Resistance Is Useful! (Especially As We Get Older)

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Resistance Is Useful!

At 10almonds we talk a lot about the importance of regular moderate exercise (e.g. walking, gardening, housework, etc), and with good reason: getting in those minutes (at least 150 minutes per week, so, a little over 20 minutes per day, or 25 minutes per day with one day off) is the exericise most consistently linked to better general health outcomes and reduced mortality risk.

We also often come back to mobility, because at the end of the day, being able to reach for something from a kitchen cabinet without doing oneself an injury is generally more important in life than being able to leg-press a car.

Today though, we’re going to talk about resistance training.

What is resistance training?

It can be weight-lifting, or it can be bodyweight exercises. In those cases, what you’re resisting is gravity. It can also be exercises with resistance bands or machines. In all cases, it’s about building and/or maintaining strength.

Why does it matter?

Let’s say you’re not an athlete, soldier, or laborer, and the heaviest thing you have to pick up is a bag of groceries. Strength still matters, for two main reasons:

  • Muscle strength correlates to bone strength. You can’t build (or maintain) strong muscles on weak bones, so if you take care of your muscles, then your body will keep your bones strong too.
    • That’s assuming you have a good diet as well—but today’s not about that. If you’d like to know more about eating for bone health though, do check out this previous article about that!
  • Muscle strength correlates to balance and stability. You can’t keep yourself from falling over if you are physically frail.

Both of those things matter, because falls and fractures often have terrible health outcomes (e.g., slower recovery and more complications) the older we get. So, we want to:

  • Ideally, not fall in the first place
  • If we do fall, have robust bones

See also: Effects of Resistance Exercise on Bone Health

How much should we do?

Let’s go to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research on this one:

❝There is strong evidence to support the benefits of resistance exercise for countering many age-related processes of sarcopenia, muscle weakness, mobility loss, chronic disease, disability, and even premature mortality.

In addition, this Position Statement provides specific evidence-based practice recommendations to aid in the implementation of resistance exercise programs for healthy older adults and those with special considerations.

While there are instances where low-intensity, low-volume programs are appropriate (i.e., beginning programs for individuals with frailty or CVDs), the greatest benefits are possible with progression to moderate to higher intensity programs.❞

~ Fragala et al

Read the statement in full:

Resistance Training for Older Adults: Position Statement From the National Strength and Conditioning Association

There’s a lot of science there and it’s well worth reading if you have the time. It’s particularly good at delineating how much is not enough vs how much is too much, and the extent to which we should (or shouldn’t) train to exhaustion.

If you don’t fancy that, though, and/or just want to start with something accessible and work your way up, the below is a very good (and also evidence-based) start-up plan:

Healthline’s Exercise Plan For Seniors—For Strength, Balance, & Flexibility

(it has a weekly planner, step-by-step guides to the exercises, and very clear illustrative animations of each)

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