The current guidelines provide an excellent starting point and will provide health benefits, but new research shows that older adults can train at higher intensity exercise levels then once believed. Research with older adults in high intensity exercise programs, specifically heavy resistance and power lifting exercise, have shown excellent fitness gains and functional strength for many activities of daily living.
The aging process typically causes a decrease in muscle mass at a rate of approximately 5 per cent per decade from the age of 40, with a rapid decrease after the age of 65. There has been much discussion as to whether this is the natural aging process or has it been accelerated due to an increased sedentary lifestyle after the age of 60.
A decrease in muscle mass and diminished neuromuscular efficiency causes a reduction in speed, agility, balance, co-ordination and power. The accumulation of these losses greatly affects overall skills, which significantly increases the risk of falls.
Fitness is lost without exercise, however the good news is it a renewable resource and will be gained with activity. Just as a sedentary lifestyle can threaten health, an exercise program with appropriate levels of strength and power training can provide numerous health benefits and stimulate muscle growth even in the later years.
Higher intensity exercises not only do wonders for the muscular system it stimulates hormone production. Research indicates seniors that performed power-training workouts with more explosive movement such as throwing a medicine ball or kettle bell swings had an increased production of the hormones testosterone, growth hormone and insulin-like growth factors, which all lead to a muscle growth and more youthful appearance.
Strength represents the amount of force a muscle can generate whereas power is the velocity of force being produced. This represents the speed at which a muscular system can be activated to produce the required movement. Strength training exercises are typically executed at a slow and rhythmical tempo whereas power training requires speed with controlled movement. For people over the age of 60, age-related loss of muscle power can occur approximately twice as quickly as loss of muscle strength, suggesting that muscle power is a more critical variable in age-related functional decline.
The big message is that healthy active older adults can perform high intensity exercise with great health and fitness benefits. Grey hair and wrinkles are a natural process of aging however when it comes to muscles and physical training the body has a great capacity to adapt even as we age. In fact, some experts argue the muscle do not know age.
Helen Vanderburg, owner of Heavens Elevated Fitness and Yoga, Elite Athlete, World Champion Synchronized Swimmer, Renowned Fitness Trainer, Master Trainer for Fusion Fitness, Schwinn Cycling, BOSU and Total Gym. Motivational and Corporate Wellness Speaker. Find her online at heavensfitness.com and helenvanderburg.com.
American Council of Sports Medicine Guidelines for Older Adults
Frequency: 2 to 4 times per week with 48 hours of rest between resistance training sessions.
Exercise selection: One to two multi joint exercises for each of the large muscle groups: legs, abdomen, back, chest, shoulders and arms; machines recommended over free weights, for safety.