Strength Training – The Key to a Better Life

As Americans move from young adulthood to middle age, they lose approximately 6.6 pounds of lean body mass (muscle and bone) each decade.  At the same time, the average American gains 1.5 pounds of fat every year! As a result of these changes, strength decreases and daily activities become increasingly difficult to perform.  Eventually lean body mass and strength decrease to the point where some people can no longer live independently.

Research conducted over the past several years has proven that the decline in lean body mass that leads to disability can be dramatically reduced with strength training.  In fact, muscle mass and strength can be regained regardless of age and initial fitness levels.  In his book, Biomarkers – the 10 Keys to Prolonging Vitality, Dr. William Evans states that building muscle is the key to an older adult’s rejuvenation.  Dr. Wayne Westcott, author of Strength and Fitness and national strength consultant for several professional organizations, is also a firm believer in strength training for mature adults.  He states, “Our ability to perform any physical activity is dependent upon our muscles.  Therefore, stronger muscles are advantageous for everyday living.”

Men and women in the 80’s who begin a well designed strength training program can expect to add muscle at about the same rate as younger adults.  In addition to increased strength and lean body mass, older adults may experience many other benefits (see box).

Benefits of Strength Training
Improved Balance Less Low Back Pain
Improved Sleep Less Discomfort From
Osteoarthritis
Lower Risk of Type II Diabetes Better Quality of Life
Increased Metabolism More Self-Confidence
Increase in Bone Density Decrease in Body Fat Percentage

According to a 1996 report from the U.S. Surgeon General, less than 5% of men and women older than age 65 strength train.  The reasons for not starting a strength training program may include a lack of interest, fear of getting hurt, lack of knowledge about the benefits, lack of time, and unfamiliarity with the equipment and proper training techniques.  Dr. Westcott reported that 90% of the men and women in one of his studies who previously had not been exercising were so pleased with their two-month results, they continued their workout program. Strength training for older adults has been proven to be very safe and highly beneficial.  Thirty minutes of strength training, three days per week, under the supervision of a qualified fitness professional, will bring about dramatic changes.  The end result will be what everyone is seeking – a better quality of life.

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