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The Importance of Strength for Older Adults

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Deborah L. Mullen, CSCS

Strength Training: The Primary Weapon Against Aging
They still haven’t found the fountain of youth, but something close to it. Researchers at Tufts University exercise lab say that strength training is a potent age eraser. It is their weapon of choice for fighting physical declines associated with aging.

More and more fitness experts are recommending strength training for health reasons–for women as well as men, older adults as well as younger adults. Strength training is extremely important in combating the age-related declines in muscle mass, bone density and metabolism. It is an effective way to increase muscle strength and to shed unwanted inches. Strength training also helps to decrease back pain, reduce arthritic discomfort, and help prevent or manage some diabetic symptoms.

The Muscle-Fat Connection
Physical inactivity causes an average muscle loss of 5-7 pounds per decade. This muscle loss leads to a metabolic rate reduction of 2-5% per decade. Calories that were previously used for muscle energy are put into fat storage, resulting in gradual weight gain. One study on older adults (Campbell, 1994) showed that a 3-month basic strength-training program resulted in the exercisers adding 3 pounds of muscle and losing 4 pounds of fat, while eating 15% more calories!

Osteoporosis Prevention
At Tufts University, researchers found that strength training can add bone density. Prior to this research, it was thought that women might be able to slow their bone loss, but not increase their bone density. This new study shows that strength training at any age can actually add bone, not just slow its loss!

Arthritic Pain Decreases
According to Tufts, sensible strength training may be one of the best ways to get relief from your arthritis. Not only will it help to lubricate and nourish the joint, strength training will also strengthen the muscles around the joint, providing it with greater support.

Glucose Metabolism Improvement
As we age, our glucose sensitivity decreases. Poor glucose metabolism is associated with Type II diabetes. One study (Hurley 1994) found that after 4 months of strength training, there was an average increased glucose uptake of 23%!



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