Getting Older Doesn't Mean you're Weak
Updated: Nov 7, 2022
The older you get, the more critical it is to engage in strength training and weightlifting exercises. In this blog, we will discuss the age-related changes that occur to the musculoskeletal system, how resistance exercise can mitigate these changes, and how professionals utilize them for guidance and safety.
Learn about your muscles
Muscles and Bones Change as you age, your body goes through physiological changes that affect your muscles and bones. After the age of 30, you begin to lose about 3%-5% of your muscle mass approximately every ten years. Continuous loss of muscle mass can lead to a diagnosis of sarcopenia.This leads to general weakness, decreased mobility, decreased flexibility, and an increased risk of falls. Additionally, as you age, your body composition tends to change favoring increased fatty tissue and reduced muscle mass
Over the years many studies have proven that people are able to maintain their muscle mass relatively by continuing to do resistance exercises, in the following pictures you can see examples of thigh MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging) from top view, showing the difference between muscle mass in dark gray and surrounded by fat mass in white, for three people The first is in his mid twenties (photo c) and the second is an elderly person with a sedentary lifestyle (photo D). The third is an elderly person practicing strength training (Picture E).
Learn about your bones
As for bone density, did you know that your bones naturally break down and rebuild themselves daily with new bone! The human body contains many cells with different functions, including a cell responsible for bone destruction “osteoclast” and a cell responsible for building it “osteoblast”. Between the ages of 25-50, bone destruction occurs equally with the building process, so bone density remains relatively constant. After age 50, bone loss starts to accelerate due to a faster rate of bone breakdown. "Osteopenia" refers to a bone density that is below average, which can progress to a diagnosis of osteoporosis where bone density is significantly low. People with osteoporosis or osteoporosis are at increased risk of fractures, which can occur as a result of trauma such as a fall or sometimes during daily activities depending on the severity of the bone loss
How to reduce these changes?
Even though these changes are a normal part of aging, that doesn't mean you can't stop the progression of muscle and bone loss. In fact, with proper resistance exercise, you can even reverse some signs of aging and aging! Progressive resistance training where you gradually increase the amount of weight or resistance you're moving will continually load your muscle and bone tissue until you get stronger in response to increased demand. Making a habit to include 3-4 days a week of resistance training is important. Staying consistent with your training is even more important as you age.
As you age, it is especially important to follow professional advice when it comes to physical activity and exercise. Your exercise program might look very different from someone else's, no matter how many similarities you share:
Previous exercise level
current health status
current comorbidities medical history
all influence what program is safe and effective for you. Did you know that you can consult a physical therapist for a personalized exercise program to help you maintain musculoskeletal health? Physiotherapists are an excellent resource for reducing age-related physiological changes because they are experts in the musculoskeletal system, in the science of movement and prescribing exercises. They can also perform a thorough physical evaluation and look at your entire medical history so you can be sure your program is safe for your needs.
Source: McLeod M., Breen L., Hamilton D.L., Philp A. (2016) Live strong and prosper: the importance of skeletal muscle strength for healthy ageing. Biogerontology 17(3):497-510.