Four Benefits of Strength Training for Older Adults You May Not Be Aware Of

August 20, 2019

There are numerous benefits that often come with growing older. These include more wisdom, improved financial security, retirement, more time to spend with loved ones, and many more. Unfortunately, aging also includes natural physiological changes that, if not managed, may negatively affect an individual’s quality of life. A few physiological changes that gradually occur over time are loss of muscle strength, loss of bone strength, and loss of cartilage between joints that may cause arthritis. While these normal changes are inevitable as the years go by, one way to halt or slow these changes is strength training. Older adults are often fearful of strength training because they are “too old” or feel that it is not safe for them at their age. However, if performed appropriately, strength training is safe and very beneficial for older adults. Below I will discuss four benefits of strength training for older adults that you may not be aware of.


1. Reduced pain associated with arthritis


Arthritis is a very common diagnosis among older adults. This is due to the deterioration of cartilage between joints that can cause “bone on bone” and loss of lubrication and increased inflammation between joints. It is common to think that strength training can exacerbate symptoms of arthritis, when in reality, strength training can help build strong muscles that help support and protect arthritic joints. It is actually more detrimental not to exercise or strength train, as this will likely increase stiffness and pain within the joint.


2. Reduced risk for development of osteoporosis


Osteoporosis is a medical condition that occurs when bones become brittle and fragile which can increase the risk for fractures. This is common diagonsis, with some studies showing that it affects 40% of post-menopausal women.1 Under normal conditions, old bone is broken down and replaced by new bone in order to keep our bones healthy and strong. As we reach the age of 30, this process slows down and the more we age, bone mass is lost faster than the body can create new bone. When this occurs at an abnormally fast rate, you can develop osteoporosis. A regular strength training program can not only help build stronger muscles, but it actually helps to improve the strength of bones which can reduce the risk for development of osteoporosis and fractures.


3. Reduced risk for falls


Falls are very common among the elderly. It is estimated that one in four adults 65 and older fall each year and are the leading cause of fatal injury among older adults. 2 While there are many reasons an individual may fall, lack of muscle strength is often a factor. Lower extremity strength and core strength are very important in order to perform daily activities such as standing up from a chair, maintaining an upright position while walking, and correcting your balance while unsteady. If you do not have adequate strength to perform these tasks, this causes you to be an increased risk for falls and subsequent injuries. A regular strength training program can help to build stronger muscles and reduce your risk for falls.


4. Improved emotional well-being


Unfortunately, of the 34 million adults 65 and older in theDepression United States, 2 million are suffering from some sort of depression for a variety of reasons. 3 There are many different treatment options for depression, but one option that is commonly overlooked is strength training. Strength training can actually help to boost your mood by stimulating increased dopamine and serotonin levels in your brain, which are neurotransmitters that play a role in happiness and mood. In addition, strength training in a group setting can help to foster friendships and a sense of community, both of which are important in living a happier and fuller life.


If you would like to start a strength training program but don’t know where to start, call Premier Physical Therapy for a safe and effective strength training program tailored to your specific needs to help improve your quality of life.


Written by: Dr. Benjamin Frannin, PT, DPT


References



1. Unnanuntana A, Gladnick B, Donnelly E, et al. The Assessment of Fracture Risk. J Bone Joint Surg AM. 2010; 92(3): 743-753. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.I.00919

2. Falls Prevention Facts. National Council of Aging Website.
https://www.ncoa.org/news/resources-for-reporters/get-the-facts/falls-prevention-facts/

Accessed 8/14/2019.

3. Depression in Older Adults: More Facts. Mental Health America Website. Accessed 8/14/2019.

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