BUILDING STRENGTH AS WE AGE
Updated: Apr 5, 2020
As we age our bodies systems tend to decline as part of the normal aging process. These changes occur in several of our body systems including our heart, lungs, nerves, skin, and musculoskeletal systems. We start to notice more aches and pains and we don’t seem to recover from exercise as we did when we were younger. The time when these changes occur depends upon a person’s health and fitness level. I would like to focus attention to those age-related changes which occur to the musculoskeletal system.
Some changes include:
Loss of joint motion
Loss of muscle mass
More flexed (kyphotic) posture
The good news is that many of the above systems can adapt to training and exercise. Staying fit through regular exercise (no matter when you begin) has been shown to overcome or delay some of these changes. Studies have shown that active seniors have lower mortality, fewer falls, reduced cardiovascular disease, better balance, superior strength and flexibility.
As a physical therapist working with a growing number of baby boomers, many are interested in remaining active into their senior years. With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 each day, that number continues to grow. Many of them present with pain complaints. Pain affects muscles ability to work and support our joints during daily activities and recreational endeavors.
As part of their treatment plan, I typically instruct them in exercises to address their age-related loss of strength and flexibility. The goal for many is to be able to perform daily activities or trying to remain injury-free. Many of the exercises I teach patients would benefit anyone (no matter their age) who is interested in improving their strength and remaining active.
Many have difficulty performing activities such as climbing a flight of stairs, rising from a chair, kneeling down in the garden, bending to pick up a grandchild. Others, simply want to avoid future injuries. I try to remind patients that it is never too late to get started. I have worked with many patients in their late 70’s, 80’s, and some even in their 90’s.
I will instruct those who need more support to hold onto adjacent surfaces for balance. The movements should not cause pain (only strain). Adjust the range of motion to avoid pain. The exercises listed below are some of my favorite ones. I typically prescribe 1 set of 10-15 repetitions of each exercise every other day to start.
Once a person is no longer having any soreness, I will advance them to 2-3 sets of each or 30-45 repetitions total. Even performing the exercises 2 times/week will build a person’s strength.
Strength gains can occur within as little as 2-4 weeks. I encourage my patients to make exercise a regular part of their daily lives. The benefits of regular exercise include both physical and mental wellness. Once you get into a routine, the benefits can be great!
Best wishes for a stronger you!
David Altieri, PT, DPT, OCS, COMT, CMTPT, CSCS, ITPT