We all know that regular exercise is good for us, but the huge importance of strength (or resistance) training – particularly for older people – is less well known.
From as early as the age of 30, our muscles begin to decrease in mass, joint cartilage starts to become thinner, bone strength reduces, and tendons and ligaments become tighter. Once we reach the age of 60, we lose 3% of muscle mass per year. These changes affect us in a range of different ways over time – from making movement and everyday tasks more difficult, to increasing the risk of falls and injuries, to pain and loss of motor function.
Thankfully, according to several studies, age-related balance and strength issues can be improved greatly by improving muscle mass through resistance training – and you don’t have to do much to see a benefit! Studies showed that 20 to 30 minutes of strength training, 2 to 3 times per week, has positive effects on risk factors for cardiovascular disorders, cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis as well as improving postural and strength issues.
According to Alzheimer’s Research UK resistance training can even help to improve cognition in people with early memory problems, while research carried out by the University of Sydney found evidence to suggest that improving muscle through strength training in older people improved brain function, possibly helping to prevent the onset of dementia.
On top of these health benefits, resistance exercise leads to noticeable improvements in daily living – a 2013 research review showed that strength training, in particular, was beneficial in elderly and frail patients to improve gait (thereby reducing the risk of falls), improve stair-climbing ability, and improve general strength and range of movement.
It’s always best to speak to a medical professional before starting a whole new exercise routine, but here are some ideas and tools to get started with some simple, basic strength training:
These long rubber bands can be used in a huge variety of ways to suit different needs. Each colour provides a different level of resistance and stretching them in various different ways can exercise every part of the body.
The University of Loughborough has a useful resistance band workout example that aims to improve upper and lower body strength, which
provides benefits for walking, climbing stairs, standing from a chair, and general physical coordination.
You don’t have to be standing or have a full range of mobility to get started with strength training – there are many exercises that can be done from a seat (or in a wheelchair) that still deliver excellent benefits in strength improvement. Here are some examples of gentle strength-building exercises that can be done seated.
Therapy Putty & Squeeze Balls
Resistance training isn’t just for larger muscles – just like other parts of the body, hands can become weak and stiff as we age. Hand exercise tools like mouldable putty or squeeze balls help to preserve dexterity and maintain grip strength to help keep your hands in good shape for longer, and studies show that regularly exercising hands can help to reduce the pain and swelling associated with arthritis.
Swimming is a great low-impact and gentle way to improve both strength and cardiovascular health while putting all your muscles to work! Swimming is particularly beneficial for improving core muscles, which are essential for maintaining balance, posture and general strength.
We carry a range of products designed to help you maintain your strength – visit your nearest Snowdrop shop to find out how we can help you to stay active, strong and mobile for longer.